Separation Agreement New Jersey by rts89862

VIEWS: 96 PAGES: 37

Separation Agreement New Jersey document sample

More Info
									                          SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
                          DISTRICT X ETHICS COMMITTEE

DAVID E. REHE & ASSOCIATES
180 River Road
P.O. Box 1010
Summit, New Jersey 07902
Tel No. (908) 918-3000
Joseph T. Delgado, Presenter


DISTRICT X ETHICS COMMITTEE,           :
                                       :    DOCKET NO: X-00-095E
           Complainant,                :
                                       :
     vs.                               :
                                       :    DISCIPLINARY ACTION
MARK L. HOPKINS, ESQ.                  :
                                       :    COMPLAINT FOR MISCONDUCT
           Respondent,                 :    R. 1:20-4



     The District X Ethics Committee, by way of Complaint

against the Respondent, Mark L. Hopkins, Esq., hereby says:


                              GENERAL ALLEGATIONS


     1.    Mark L. Hopkins, Esq. (“Respondent”) or (“Hopkins”) was

admitted to the Bar of the State of New Jersey in or about 1972.

     2.    During the relevant period, Respondent maintained a business

office for the practice of law in the County of Morris at 30

Schooley’s Mountain Road, Long Valley, New Jersey.

     3.    In or about August of 1999 Respondent was retained by Frank

J. Ford, 70 Schindler Square, Hackettstown, New Jersey (“Grievant”) or

(“Ford”) and his ex—wife Elaine M. Ford to represent them in

connection with their divorce.

     4.    Grievant learned about Respondent through Meryl Olivera.
     5.    Meryl Olivera and her ex—husband were also being represented

by Respondent in their divorce action during the same time period.

     6.    Frank J. Ford and Meryl Olivera are now married to each

other.

     7.    Respondent advised the Grievant and Elaine Ford that he

would represent husband and wife (the “Marital Unit”) during “Phase I”

of the representation. Phase I involved the preparation and execution

of a Separation Agreement.

     8.    After the Separation Agreement was prepared and executed,

Respondent would proceed with “Phase II” of the engagement.   Phase II

involved the preparation and filing of the Complaint for Divorce.

Respondent would represent the spouse who filed the Complaint.    The

other spouse could appear pro se.

     9.    Meryl Olivera and her ex-husband engaged Respondent to

represent them in accordance with the above-described outline.

     10.   Respondent prepared a Separation Agreement which was

executed by Meryl Olivera and her ex—husband.   Meryl Olivera and her

ex—husband proceeded to Phase II of the engagement, with Respondent

representing her ex—husband in court in or about July of 2000 when

their divorce was finalized. Meryl Olivera appeared pro se.

     11.   Respondent’s fee for representing Frank and Elaine Ford

during Phase I of the engagement was $750.00. Each spouse was to pay

one—half of the fee. A retainer agreement was not prepared or

presented to the Grievant and his ex—wife. Grievant paid Respondent

$500.00 as a retainer.
        12.   Between August 30, 1999 and December 15, 1999 Frank and

Elaine Ford were engaged in the process of deciding how to distribute

the marital assets and otherwise resolve the remaining issues relating

to their divorce, including custody and visitation of their daughter.

        13.   On or about December 16, 1999 Grievant and Elaine Ford met

with Respondent. During this meeting Respondent was provided with the

documentation needed to prepare the Separation Agreement.

        14.   Grievant alleges Respondent agreed to provide the Separation

Agreement by the end of the year.

        15.   In or around the end of January, 2000 Grievant began

pressing Respondent for the production of the Separation Agreement.

     16.      Grievant telephoned and wrote to Respondent seeking the

status of the Separation Agreement without success.

     17.      On or about February 28, 2000 Grievant and Elaine Ford

obtained the Separation Agreement from the Grievant.

     18.      On or about March 13, 2000 Respondent met with Elaine Ford.

Grievant was not notified of the meeting and did not participate in

same.

     19.      On or about March 15, 2000 Grievant was provided with Elaine

Ford’s proposed changes to the Separation Agreement.

     20.      On or about March 16, 2000 Grievant faxed Respondent his

comments to Elaine Ford’s proposed changes.

     21.      On or about March 17, 2000 Respondent telephoned Grievant

and urged Grievant to sign the Separation Agreement. He further

indicated that he believed Grievant was being unreasonable.
     22. At this point in time, Grievant concluded that Respondent was

no longer representing his best interests and had become an advocate

for Elaine Ford.

     23.   During the relevant time period, Meryl Olivera and her ex—

husband were also being represented by the Respondent.

     24.   During March of 2000, Meryl Olivera and Respondent were

discussing Ms. Olivera’s divorce. Respondent asked Ms. Olivera why she

was not seeking alimony from her ex—husband. Ms. Olivera disclosed

that she planned to marry the Grievant after their respective

divorce’s were finalized.

     25.   Respondent responded to this information by stating: “This

is not kosher.” Respondent also advised Ms. Olivera that Grievant had

sent him a “nastygram beating me about the head and shoulders.”   This

statement apparently referred to Grievant’s attempts to secure the

Separation Agreement from the Respondent.

     26.   During Respondent’s conversation with Ms. Olivera, he made

additional disclosures to her regarding Grievant’s divorce.

Specifically, Respondent disclosed to Ms. Olivera that “there’s not

enough money on that end either,” and “money is tight on both sides.”

Both statements related to Grievant’s financial situation.

     27.   After Meryl Olivera advised Respondent that she did not care

to be involved in discussions about Grievant’s divorce, Respondent

added that Grievant and his wife were “not getting along.”

     28.   During March of 2000, Respondent had an additional

conversation with Meryl Olivera regarding her divorce. At that time
Respondent advised Ms. Olivera that Grievant was harassing him and

Elaine Ford. He characterized the Ford divorce as a “blood bath” and

indicated that he “wanted no part of it.” Respondent also indicated

that “these situations only hurt the children” and that if it

continued, he would withdraw.

     29.   After Grievant learned that Respondent had discussed his

divorce with Meryl Olivera, he telephoned Respondent and objected to

Respondent discussing his case with Meryl Olivera. Respondent did not

dispute speaking to Ms. Olivera about his divorce.

     30.   During the latter part of March, 2000, Frank Ford and Elaine

Ford decided they did not want Respondent to represent them further.

Grievant and his ex-wife agreed to the terms of a Separation

Agreement, and executed the agreement. Grievant then prepared a

Complaint for divorce which Elaine Ford filed. The parties proceeded

with their divorce pro se.

     31.   In July and August of 2000, Grievant faxed Respondent

letters articulating his concerns regarding Respondent’s

representation and seeking the return of the $500.00 fee which he

paid, or an accounting. Respondent did not respond to either letter.

                               FIRST COUNT
                             (Frank J. Ford)
                                R.P.C. 1.5

     32.   The District X Committee repeats and realleges the

allegations of paragraphs 1 through 31 as fully set forth herein at

length.

     33.   Respondent agreed to represent Grievant and Elaine Ford in
connection with their divorce.

     34.   R.P.C. 1.5 (b) requires that “the basis or rate of the fee

shall be communicated in writing to the client before or within a

reasonable time after commencing the representation.”

     35.   Respondent failed to communicate his fee in writing before

or after commencing his representation of Grievant and Elaine Ford.

     36.   Accordingly, Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.5 (b).

     WHEREFORE, the District X Committee requests the finding that

Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.5 (b).

                                SECOND COUNT
                               (John J. Ford)
                               R.P.C. 1.4 (a)

     37.   The District X Committee repeats and realleges that

allegations of paragraphs 1 through 36 as if fully set forth herein at

length.

     38.   R.P.C. 1.4 (a) provides that: “a lawyer shall keep a client

reasonably informed about the status of the matter and promptly comply

with reasonable requests for information.”

     39.   Between December 16, 1999 through the end of February 2000

Respondent failed to respond to Grievant’s requests for a status

report and for the production of the Separation Agreement which was

promised by the end of 1999.

     40.   On July 20, 2000 and August 9, 2000 Grievant wrote to

Respondent articulating dissatisfaction with Respondent’s handling of

the matter and seeking the return of the $500.00 retainer fee or an

accounting.
     41.   Respondent failed to respond to Grievant’s letters dated

July 20, 2000 and August 9, 2000.

     42.   Accordingly, Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.4 (a).

     WHEREFORE, the District X Committee requests the finding that

Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.4 (a).

                                 THIRD COUNT
                               (John J. Ford)
                             R.P.C.     1.6 (a)

     43.   The District X Committee repeats and realleges the

allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 42 as if fully set forth herein at

length.

     44.   R.P.C. 1.6 (a) provides, in part, that: “A lawyer shall not

reveal information relating to representation of a client unless a

client consents after consultation....”

     45.   As set forth above, Respondent made various unauthorized

disclosures regarding Grievant’s divorce to Meryl Olivera.

     46.   The   disclosures were made without Grievant’s knowledge,

consent, or consultation with the Grievant.

     47.   Accordingly, Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.6 (a).

     WHEREFORE, the District X Committee requests a finding that

Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.6 (a).

                               FOURTH COUNT
                              (John J. Ford)
                              R.P.C. 1.7 (a)

     48.   The District X Committee repeats and realleges the

allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 47 as if fully set forth herein at

length.
     49.   R.P.C. 1.7 (a) provides that: “a lawyer shall not represent

a client if the representation of that client will be directly adverse

to another client....

     50.   Respondent simultaneously represented Frank J. Ford and

Elaine Ford in their divorce action.

     51.   Respondent’s representation of Frank J. Ford was directly

adverse to his representation of Elaine Ford. Similarly, Respondent’s

representation of Elaine Ford was directly adverse to his

representation of Frank J. Ford.

     52.   Accordingly, Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.7(a).

     WHEREFORE, the District X Committee requests a finding that

Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.7(a).

                               FIFTH COUNT
                        (Meryl Ford, nee Olivera)
                              R.P.C. 1.7(a)

     53.   The District X Committee repeats and realleges the

allegations of Paragraphs 1 through 52 as if fully set forth herein at

length.

     54.   At all relevant times Respondent simultaneously represented

Meryl Olivera and her ex-husband in connection with their divorce.

     55.   Respondent prepared a Separation Agreement for Meryl Olivera

and her ex—husband.

     56. Thereafter, Respondent represented Mr. Olivera in connection

with the filing of his Complaint for divorce. Olivera appeared pro se.

     57. Respondent’s simultaneous representation of Meryl Olivera was

directly adverse to his representation of her ex—husband and vice
versa.

    58.   Accordingly Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.7(a).

     WHEREFORE, the District X Committee requests the finding that

Respondent violated R.P.C. 1.7(a).

                              DISTRICT X ETHTCS COMMITTEE

                              /s/ Joseph T. Delgado, Esq.
     Mark L. Hopkins. Esq.
     30 Schooleys Mtn. Road
     Long Valley. NJ 07853
     908.876-5000; Fx 876-4757
     Mark L. Hopkins, Respondent


DISTRICT X ETHICS COMMITTEE,         :
                                     :     DOCKET NO: X-00-095E
            Complainant,             :
                                     :
     vs.                             :
                                     :     DISCIPLINARY ACTION
MARK L. HOPKINS, ESQ.                :
                                     :     ANSWER; AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES
            Respondent,              :


     Mark L. Hopkins (“respondent”), by way of Answer to the Complaint

in this matter, says:

                             GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

     1.     Paragraphs I and 2 of the Complaint are respectfully

admitted.

     2.     Paragraph 3 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted as to

respondent being retained by Frank and Elaine Ford; denied as to

August of ‘99 and as to respondent representing the Fords in

connection with their divorce. See also/however affirmative defense(s)

(1) and the Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer, including the

supplemented Chronology and Statement of Facts (hereinafter

“Supplemented Chronology).

     3.     Paragraph 4 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, on

information and belief; grievant (Mr. Ford) advised respondent, or

otherwise intentionally led respondent to believe, on multiple

occasions, including the initial phone call, that grievant learned of
respondent through Mr. (Oscar) Olivera, then the husband of Meryle

Olivera, as opposed to Meryle Olivera per se. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 3 and the Attachment(s) accompanying this

Answer.

     4.   Paragraph 5 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, except

respondent represented Oscar and Meryle Olivera (H/W) in their quest

to effect a marital separation agreement during the period respondent

represented the Fords as aforesaid. See also/however affirmative

defense(s) 1,2 & 5 and the Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer,

including the Supplemented Chronology.

     5.   Paragraph 6 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, on

information and belief.

     6.   Paragraph 7 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that respondent was actually retained by the Fords only with

regard to effecting an amicable uncontested marital separation

agreement. See also/however affirmative defense(s) 1, 2, & 5 and the

Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer.

     7.   Paragraph 8 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, as to

the intimation(s) there was any “automatic” transition or continuation

from “phase 1”; in the Ford matter, the Fords failed to complete even

“phase I. See also/however Paragraph 7 above, affirmative defense(s)

1-2 & 5-8 and the Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer.

     8.   Insofar as “the above-described outline” is understood,

Paragraph 9 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted and/or denied in

accordance with the foregoing paragraphs 1-7. and the affirmative
defenses and Attachments referenced therein.

     9.    Paragraph 10 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that “the engagement” was not the same engagement, as

intimated, but rather was an entirely separate “engagement”, as

established by a separate executed written retainer agreement and

retainer fee. See also/however affirmative defense(s) 10 and the

Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer, particularly the letters of

the Oliveras annexed to Attachment C.

     10.   Paragraph 11 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted as to

the 1st and 3rd sentences, and denied as to the remainder. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 11 & 12, and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer.

     11.   Paragraph 12 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, on

information and belief

     12.   Paragraph 13 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that respondent was not provided with all the documentation and

information needed to prepare a separation agreement. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 13 and the Attachment(s) accompanying this

Answer.

     13.   Paragraph 14 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, on

information and belief, except that such was an anticipation and not

an agreement, and such anticipation could only have been predicated on

Mrs. Ford being able to demonstrate her takeover of Mr. Ford’s

interest in the marital home was feasible with the lender community.

See also/however affirmative defense(s) 13 and the Attachment(s)
accompanying this Answer.

     14.    Insofar as the term “pressing” is deemed intended here,

Paragraph 15 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 13, and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer, including the Supplemented Chronology.

     15.    Insofar as the term “without success” is deemed intended

here, Paragraph 16 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 13. and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer.

     16.    Paragraph 17 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that the separation agreement was provided under cover of Feb.

25th however affirmative defense(s) 13 & 14 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer, including the Supplemented Chronology.

     17.    Paragraph 18 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that respondent had requested Mrs. Ford notify Mr. Ford with

the expectation that would happen, and Mr. Ford admitted in a fax

letter he was aware the meeting was to take place. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 15 and the Attachment(s) to this Answer,

including the Supplemented Chronology (in particular item 13a).

     18.    Paragraphs 19 and 20 of the Complaint are respectfully

admitted.

     19.    Paragraph 21 of the Complaint is respectfully denied. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 16 & 17 and the Attachment(s),

including the Supplemented Chronology (in particular items 15 & 16)

accompanying this Answer.
     20.   Respectfully, respondent can neither admit nor deny,

especially “at this point in time”, what grievant concluded, and

accordingly Paragraph 22 of the Complaint is denied. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 15 & 17 and the Attachment(s), including the

Supplemented Chronology (in particular items 15- 17), accompanying

this Answer.

     21.   Insofar as “the relevant time period” is understood,

Paragraph 23 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 1, 2, 5, 7 & 9, and the

Attachment(s), including the Supplemented Chronology, accompanying

this Answer.

     22.   Paragraph 24 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, in

that, by the context of what is alleged to have been discussed,

respondent could only have been discussing the terms of the Oliveras’

proposed separation agreement, which was signed March 16, 2000. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 18 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer.

     23.   Paragraph 25 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, except

that its subject matter reflects not only when (March. 2000)

respondent learned from Mrs. Olivera as to the intimate relationship

between Mrs. Olivera and Mr. Ford, but also that respondent was

understandably ill at ease, to say the least, with regarding to the

complicating nature of such revelation. See also/however the

Attachment(s) accompanying this Answer.

     24.   Paragraph 26 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, except
that respondent admits to discussing relative timing

difficulties/aspects as to the two matters, upon Mrs. Olivera’s clear

demonstration of extensive knowledge of the Ford matter and pressing

for information with the indication of authorization to do so. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 19 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying this Answer.

     25.   Paragraph 27 of the Complaint is respectfully denied. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 20 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying the Answer.

     26.   Paragraph 28 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, except

that respondent had multiple conversations with Mrs. Olivera in March

of 2000 regarding her matter. See also/however affirmative defense(s)

21 and the Attachment(s) accompanying the Answer.

     27.   Paragraph 29 of the Complaint is respectfully denied; no

such phone call is recalled nor is believed to have taken place. See

also/however the Attachment(s) accompanying the Answer.

     28.   Respectfully, respondent can neither admit nor deny the

allegations of Paragraph 30 of the Complaint, and accordingly such

allegations are denied, except that respondent had withdrawn from the

Ford matter as of March 17, 2000, and thus there was no need for any

decision by the Fords regarding respondent’s further representation of

the Fords.

     29.   Paragraph 31 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, due

essentially to two major personal crises involving respectively

respondent’s son and the mother of respondent’s wife. See also/however
affirmative defense(s) 23 and the Attachment(s) accompanying the

Answer.

                               FIRST COUNT

     30.   With regard to Paragraph 32 of the Complaint, Respondent’s

answers to Paragraphs 1-31 of the Complaint are respectfully admitted

and/or denied in accordance with the foregoing Paragraphs 1-29, as if

set forth herein at length.

     31.   Paragraph 33 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted,

except that respondent’s agreement to represent the Fords only covered

their quest to effect a marital separation agreement. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 1,2 5, 6, 7, 8 & 12 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying the Answer.

     32.   Paragraph 34 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, in

that RPC 1.5(b) is what it is and requires what it requires.

     33.   Paragraph 35 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, in

that/except that respondent fully communicated the terms of

retainership but failed to have the retainership reduced to writing

signed by the Fords. See also/however affirmative defense(s) 1,2, 6,

7,8, 11 & 12 and the Attachment(s) accompanying the Answer.

     34.   Paragraph 36 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted.

                              SECOND COUNT

     35.   With regard to Paragraph 32 of the Complaint, Respondent’s

answers to Paragraphs 1-36 of the Complaint are respectfully admitted

and/or denied in accordance with the foregoing Paragraphs 1-35, as if

set forth herein at length.
     36.   Paragraph 38 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, in

that RPC 1.4(a) is what it is and requires what it requires.

     37.   Paragraph 39 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, except

that respondent failed to respond to grievant’s satisfaction regarding

requests for information, including status. See also/however

affirmative defense(s) 13, 14, 15 & 16 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying the Answer.

     38.   Paragraph 40 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted

insofar as to the existence and receipt of the two written

communications; their content is what it is.

     39.   Paragraph 41 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted. See

also/however affirmative defense(s) 23 and the Attachment(s)

accompanying the Answer.

     40.   Paragraph 42 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted.

                               THIRD COUNT

     41.   With regard to Paragraph 32 of the Complaint, Respondent’s

answers to Paragraphs 1-42 of the Complaint are respectfully admitted

and/or denied in accordance with the foregoing Paragraphs 1-40, as if

set forth herein at length.

     42.   Paragraph 44 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, in

that RPC 1.6(a) is what it is and provides what it provides.

     43.   Paragraph 45 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted to

the extent admitted hereinabove.

     44.   Paragraph 46 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, in

that the admitted disclosure(s) was/were made without grievant’s prior
knowledge or consent.

     45.   Paragraph 47 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted.

                              FOURTH COUNT

     46.   With regard to Paragraph 32 of the Complaint, Respondent’s

answers to Paragraphs 1-47 of the Complaint are respectfully admitted

and/or denied in accordance with the foregoing Paragraphs 1-45, as if

set forth herein at length

     47.   Paragraph 49 of the Complaint is respectfully admitted, in

that RPC 1.7(a) is what it is and provides what it provides.

     48.   Paragraph 50 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, in

that respondent represented Frank and Elaine Ford in connection with

their quest for a marital separation agreement, and except that had

the Fords amicably reached an uncontested executed marital separation

agreement, respondent was available to represent one of the Fords in

an amiable, uncontested divorce proceeding, in the same way as

transpired in connection with the Oliveras, as described herein

(including the Attachments). See also/however affirmative defense(s)

1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13 16 & 17 and the Attachments to the

Answer.

     49.   To the extent of respondent’s representation of the Fords

regarding their quest to effect a marital separation agreement and/or

the aforesaid possible representation of either of the Fords regarding

a following divorce proceeding, Paragraphs 51 and 52 of the Complaint

are respectfully admitted.
                               FIFTH COUNT

     50.   With regard to Paragraph 32 of the Complaint, Respondent’s

answers to Paragraphs 1-52 of the Complaint are respectfully admitted

and/or denied in accordance with the foregoing Paragraphs 1-49, as if

set forth herein at length.

     51.   Paragraph 54 of the Complaint is respectfully denied, in

that respondent represented the Oliveras from approximately April,

1999 (initial contact on the matter) to approximately March 16, 2000,

in connection with their quest to effect a marital separation

agreement, and shortly thereafter represented Oscar Olivera in his

follow-on amicable, uncontested divorce proceeding, as set forth

herein (including the Attachments). See also/however affirmative

defense(s) 9, 10 & 18 and the Attachments to the Answer.

     52.   Paragraph 55 is respectfully admitted.

     53.   Paragraph 56 is respectfully admitted, though Mrs. Olivera

appeared pro se through intelligent sworn waiver of her right to any

counsel.

     54.   To the extent respondent’s said representations regarding

the Oliveras came within RPC 1.7(a), Paragraphs 57 and 58 of the

Complaint are respectfully admitted.

     WHEREFORE, respondent respectfully requests that there be all due

deliberate and reasonable consideration of the foregoing Answer,

including the within affirmative defenses and Attachments thereto, in

arriving at a decision in connection with Counts One through Five and

possible disciplinary action which nevertheless invokes the essence of
Rule 7:6-2.

                            AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES

     1.   Respondent never represented the Fords as to a divorce.

Respondent represented the Fords solely with regard to their quest to

effect a marital separation agreement. This representation was never

completed, due solely to the Fords, and, accordingly, by virtue of the

retainership provisions established, there could be no further

representation by respondent as to the Fords in any aspect of their

marital affairs.

     2.   The Ford representation ended prior to completion by virtue

of the Fords being unable to amicably reach accord. A critical part of

respondent’s said retainership as to the Fords was that said

representation would end upon their inability or failure to remain

amicable and uncontested.

     3.   Grievant, Frank Ford, from the outset, on multiple

occasions, misrepresented himself to, and as to how he learned of,

respondent. It became clear many months later, grievant’s intent was

to hide an intimate relationship he was then and thereafter having

with respondent’s client, Meryle Olivera. Had Mr. Ford dealt in candor

from the outset, respondent, knowing of this relationship, would not

have been able to become involved in or with the Fords or their

matter.

     4.   Respondent first learned of the intimate relationship of Mr.

Ford and Mrs. Olivera (including Mrs. Olivera’s declaration of

engagement to be married) on or about March 1, 2000.
     5.     Respondent was able to end his retainership with the Fords

only a relatively short time following awareness of the intimate

relationship between Mr. Ford and Mrs. Olivera.

     6.     The Fords knew well, having been expressly advised by

respondent, for example, at the December, 1999 meeting in which

respondent was retained by the Fords, that any post-separation-

agreement representation of either of the Fords by respondent would

have to be the subject of a separation representation and a separate

retainer fee and agreement, and the Fords were also well aware that

both were entitled to their own counsel in the divorce proceeding

phase and entitled to proceed in said proceeding with no attorneys

whatsoever.

     7.     Apart from representing Mr. and Mrs. Ford with regard to

their quest to effect a marital separation agreement, there was no

representation of the Fords by respondent established.

     8.     The Fords were expressly advised by respondent, in addition

to affirmative defense 6 above,:

     (a)    Respondent could not become further involved (i.e., beyond

conciliation of the separation agreement), and the divorce “phase”

could not appropriately be commenced or effected, unless and until the

marital separation agreement had been amicably arrived at and

executed;

     (b)    if respondent was involved, the divorce “phase” would have

had to constitute a representation entirely apart from representation

regarding the separation agreement, and for respondent’s latter
involvement to happen and continue, the parties had to remain at all

times amicable to one another and the process had to remain

uncontested;

     (c)   either spouse was at liberty to bring such divorce action;

     (d)   the filing spouse could have any legal counsel he/she

desired, and the other spouse was encouraged to seek his/her own

counsel as well; indeed the Fords were aware they could proceed in

divorce without any attorneys whatsoever; there was no solicitation to

select respondent over any other attorney or over no attorney at all;

     (e)   under no circumstances could or would respondent become

involved in the divorce unless and until both spouses readily agreed,

in writing, with full knowledge, disclosure, and understanding, and

with no coercion or duress, etc., that both spouses desired respondent

to represent the spouse they themselves decided upon. See accompanying

Attachments A & B, and particularly C(ii), as exemplifying the

foregoing.

     9.    Respondent was engaged by the Oliveras in or about April of

1999 to represent them in connection with their quest to effect a

marital separation agreement, pursuant to an executed written retainer

agreement. Respondent was engaged by Mr. Olivera in the March 2000

time frame to represent him in the follow-on divorce, pursuant to a

separate executed written retainer agreement. The latter

representation was only entered into by respondent by virtue of and

after both the Oliveras having acknowledged in writing their express

agreement for respondent to so represent Mr. Olivera. See Attachments
A, B & C.

     10.    Meryle Olivera appeared pro se solely by her own choice not

to have any attorney (including respondent) represent her, though she

knew full well she had this right, and so admitted same, under oath,

to the Court.

     11.    An All State Legal Supply “Legal Fee Agreement” was in the

Ford file, indicating the intent to proceed in such manner, but

unexplainably was apparently never signed, unlike the Olivera Matters

where retainer agreements using the same form were signed.

     12.    The Fords agreed between them they were to share the fee.

The Fords paid respondent the $500.00 from a checking account, with

the Fords agreeing in respondent’s presence they would “settle-up”

between themselves privately.

     13.    The arrangement upon which the Fords had come to accord as

of the Dec 16th meeting included as the “lynch pin” term that Mrs.

Ford was to take over Mr. Ford’s interest in the marital home, and

there was virtually no documentation presented, nor definitive

information regarding how Mrs. Ford would accomplish same. This

essential term became a major stumbling block to any progress,

including attempting any meaningful draft of separation agreement,

because Mrs. Ford was struggling, to say the least, by virtue of the

Fords going through Chapter 7 Bankruptcy to Discharge in early 1999.

The Fords were aware that should this approach prove unfeasible, they

would necessarily have to revise their accord in major respect.

     14.    The exercise of putting together a separation agreement
embodying the accord reached by the Fords only became practical in the

mid February, 2000 time frame, by virtue of information from Mrs. Ford

indicating optimism as to feasibility regarding the “lynch pin” issue.

     15.   Mrs. Ford had the draft of separation agreement reviewed by

independent counsel, as per the prescribed right provided both parties

in the draft. Around the time she obtained her attorney

findings/change recommendations, Mrs. Ford advised that Mr. Ford had

become confrontational to the point of abusive, and she deemed it thus

necessary to preliminarily meet with respondent to review her

attorney’s results. Mrs. Ford believed it best to “glean” or narrow

the points of her attorney to only those having both reasonableness

and appropriateness. In that way, Mrs. Ford hoped to preserve the

required amicable and uncontested process by avoiding unnecessary

further negative conduct from Mr. Ford that might derive from pursuing

points respondent deemed either unnecessary or unreasonable.

Respondent saw the wisdom of Mrs. Ford’s thought process and too

believed it to be the best way to eliminate unnecessary or

unreasonable points. Notwithstanding, respondent requested that Mrs.

Ford contact Mr. Ford with the information regarding the meeting.

     16.   On March 17th there was no “signable” version of the

separation agreement before either of the Fords; accordingly, there

could be no urging of grievant to sign “the separation agreement”

     17.   On March 17th respondent indicated to grievant that grievant

had substantially changed his position, to the point it was obvious

the Fords had entered the contested realm and were no longer being
amicable.

     18.    The subject of possible alimony as to both marital partners

is a valid and essential consideration of any marital separation

agreement. It is appropriate, for example, in order to complete the

picture of “feasibility” for each of the spouses to be able to live

separate and apart. The Oliveras situation was not different. The

issue of possible alimony regarding Meryle Olivera was fully resolved

by and between the spouses, in the initial meeting with respondent,

many months before March of 2000, and to respondent’s knowledge did

not come up again, nor was there any need therefor, and certainly not

by virtue of respondent learning of Mrs. Olivera’s relationship with

Mr. Ford at the beginning of March.

     19.    The content of the paragraph bridging pages 4 and 5 of

respondent’s letter to Joseph 1’. Delgado, Esq. dated June 12, 2001

accompanying this Answer.

     20.    Contrary to the allegations in Paragraph 27 of the

Complaint, in response to Meryle Olivera’s pressing respondent for

information, it was respondent who advised Mrs. Olivera to the effect

that if Mr. Ford wanted information regarding his matter from

respondent, he should contact respondent directly instead of

attempting to go through Mrs. Olivera.

     21.    The alleged “characterizations” did not occur; the most that

could be said to have been indicated to Meryle Olivera is that

respondent had withdrawn from the Ford matter (which Meryle Olivera

had demonstrated earlier-on she knew all about, when revealing her
engagement to be married to Mr. Ford), and thus there was even less

control over Mrs. Olivera’s timetable for marrying Mr. Ford.

     22.   It is not understood what is meant by “John J. Ford” which

appears in multiple places immediately following the title of the

Second through Fourth Counts.

     23.   As to the Ford July/August, 2000 letters:

     (a)   they came at a time respondent was in the midst of two

personal family crises, one involving his son, including the need for

isolating him from his environment, and the other involving his wife’s

mother, who had a devastating stroke leaving her paralyzed on the

entire left side, in combination with prior near blindness and near

deafness and major heart trouble;

     (b)   they were, of course, post-representation, and, in terms of

dissatisfaction with respondent, offered noting new over Mr. Ford’s

mid-march phone conversation(s) with respondent, and a response

thereto would amount to going over ground already covered; and

     (c)   As to an accounting, the time spent in the first two

meetings with the Fords alone totaled approximately six (6) hours, of

which Mr. Ford was obviously well aware when he wrote his letters by

virtue of his attendence, thus translating to an effective rate of $83

and change per hour, without considering any additional time expended

by respondent in the Ford matter, which was considerable, and, of

course, included the drafting of the separation agreement.

     24.   Any and all other affirmative defenses embodied in the

Attachments to the Answer.
                          CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES

     The only possible constitutional issue possibly foreseeable in

this case is the possible abridgement to the right by consenting and

knowledgeable individuals to freely choose any legal counsel they

desire, and more particularly as the facts in this matter apply

thereto.

                               ATTACHMENTS

     A.    Respondent’s June 30, 2001 letter to Joseph T. Delgado,

Presenter, providing a point-by-point response to the Statement of

Facts portion of the Investigation Report.

     B.    Respondent’s June 29, 2001 letter to Joseph T. Delgado,

presenter, responding in detail to the “core” issue (so stated by

presenter) in this matter, namely the representation by respondent of

the Oliveras as actually took place, and the contemplated same kind of

representation as to the Fords.

     C.    Respondent’s June 12, 2001 letter to Joseph T. Delgado,

presenter, with:

     (i)   Supplemented Chronology and Statement of Facts;

     (ii) Letters dated March 22 2000 signed by each of the Oliveras.

expressly defining and agreeing to respondent’s participation in their

follow-on divorce.

     D.    Respondent’s December 7, 2000 letter to Joseph T. Delgado,

Committee Investigator, with original Chronology and Statement of

Facts, responding to Mr. Delgado’s initial letter to respondent in

this matter.
                         Respectfully submitted,

                         /s/ Mark L. Hopkins

Dated:   July 13, 2001
                 STIPULATION OF DISCIPLINE BY CONSENT



Investigator    Joseph T. Delgado, Esq.
Address         130 River Road, Summit, New Jersey 07902
Phone           (908) 918—3036

                     SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
                     District Docket No.X-00—095E



DISTRICT X ETHICS COMMITTEE,        :
                                    :
           Complainant,             :
                                    :
     vs.                            :
                                    :    STIPULATION OF
MARK L. HOPKINS, ESQ.               :    DISCIPLINE BY CONSENT
                                    :
           Respondent,              :



     This stipulation as made arid entered into between Mark L.

Hopkins, Esq. (hereinafter respondent), and Joseph T. Delgado, Esq.

(hereinafter investigator)

     Respondent is an attorney licensed to practice law in New Jersey

in 1972 and currently practices at 30 Schooleys Mountain Road, Long

Valley, New Jersey 07853.

     A.    MISCONDUCT COMMITTED

     On or about October 3, 2000 a grievance was filed by Frank Ford

(Grievant.) alleging that Respondent committed unethical conduct

sometime between August of 1999 and March, 2000. The matter was

assigned to the investigator for investigation. The investigator

revealed sufficient evidence to assert violations of RPC 1.5(b),

1.4(a), 1.6(a) and 1.7(a). The material facts are as follows:
     1.    In or about August of 1999 Respondent met with Frank Ford,

70 Schindler Square, Hackettstown, New Jersey (“Grievant”) or

(“Ford”) and his ex—wife Elaine M. Ford in connection with the

potential retention of respondent.

     2.    Grievant   learned about   Respondent through Meryl

Olivera.

     3.    Between December 1999 through March 2000 Meryl Olivera and

Oscar Olivera were also being represented by Respondent in their

matrimonial action.

     4.    Frank J. Ford and Meryl Olivera are now married to each

other.

     5.    Respondent advised Grievant and Elaine Ford that he would

represent husband and wife (the “Marital Unit”) during “Phase I” of

the representation. Phase I involved the preparation and execution of

a Separation Agreement.

     6.    Respondent planned to proceed with “Phase II” of the

engagement following the preparation and execution of the Separation

Agreement. Phase II would involve the preparation and filing of the

Complaint for divorce.    With the consent of husband and wife,

respondent planned to represent the spouse who filed the Complaint.

The non-filing spouse would appear pro se.

     7.    Meryl Olivera and Oscar Olivera engaged Respondent to

represent them in accordance with the above—described “Phase 1/Phase

II” outline.

     8.    Respondent prepared a Separation Agreement which was

executed by Meryl Olivera and Oscar Olivera. Meryl Olivera and her

ex-husband proceeded to Phase II of the engagement. Meryl and Oscar
Olivera executed a separate agreement whereby they acknowledged that

respondent would represent Oscar Olivera and Meryl Olivera would

proceed pro se. In accordance with the aforementioned agreement

respondent represented Oscar Olivera in court in or about July of

2000 when their divorce was finalized. Meryl Olivera appeared pro se.

     9.    Respondent’s fee for representing Frank and Elaine Ford

during Phase I of the engagement was $750.00. Each spouse was to pay

one—half of the fee. A retainer agreement was not prepared or

presented to the Grievant and his ex—wife. Grievant paid Respondent

$500.00 as a retainer.

     10.   Between August 30, 1999 and December 16, 1999 Frank and

Elaine Ford were engaged in the process of deciding how to distribute

the marital assets and otherwise resolve the remaining issues

relating to the termination of their marriage, including custody and

visitation of their daughter.

     11.   On or about December 16, 1999 Grievant and Elaine Ford met

with Respondent. During this meeting Respondent was provided with

documentation needed to prepare the Separation Agreement.

     12.   Grievant alleges Respondent agreed to provide the

Separation Agreement by the end of the year.

     13.   In or around the end of January, 2000 Grievant began

pressing Respondent for the production of the Separation Agreement.

     14.   Grievant telephoned and wrote to Respondent seeking the

status of the Separation Agreement. Grievant claims that respondent

did not provide a response for nearly two (2) months.

     15.   On or about February 28, 2000 Grievant and Elaine Ford

obtained the Separation Agreement from the Respondent.
     16.   On or about March 13, 2000 Respondent met with Elaine Ford.

Grievant alleges he was not notified of the meeting in advance of

same and did not attend same.

     17.   On or about March 15, 2000 Grievant was provided with

Elaine Ford’s proposed changes to the Separation Agreement.

     18.   On or about March 16, 2000 Grievant faxed Respondent his

comments to Elaine Ford’s proposed changes.

     19.   On or about March 17, 2000 Respondent telephoned Grievant.

Grievant alleges that respondent urged him to sign the Separation

Agreement. Grievant further alleges that respondent advised him that

he was being unreasonable.

     20.   As of March 17, 2000, Grievant concluded that Respondent

was no longer representing his best interests and had become an

advocate for Elaine Ford.

     21.   During the relevant time period, Meryl Olivera and Oscar

Olivera were also being represented by the Respondent.

     22.   During March of 2000, Meryl Olivera and Respondent were

discussing Ms. Olivera’s marital matter. Meryl Olivera disclosed that

she planned to marry the Grievant after their respective divorces

were finalized.

     23.   Meryl Olivera alleges that Respondent responded to this

information by stating: “This is not kosher” and that Respondent also

advised Ms. Olivera that Grievant had sent him a “nastygram beating

me about the head and shoulders.” This statement apparently referred

to Grievant’s attempts to secure the Separation Agreement from the

Respondent.
     24.   Meryl Olivera alleges that during Respondent’s conversation

with her he made additional disclosures to her regarding Grievant’s

case. Specifically, Respondent disclosed to Ms. Olivera that “there’s

not enough money on that end either,” and “money is tight on both

sides.” Both statements related to Grievant’s financial situation.

     25.   Meryl Olivera alleges that after she advised Respondent

that she did not care to be involved in discussions regarding

Grievant’s divorce, Respondent added that Grievant and his wife were

“not getting along.”

     26.   During March of 2000, Respondent had an additional

conversation or conversations with Meryl Olivera regarding her

divorce. During these conversations Ms. Olivera claims that

respondent advised her that Grievant was harassing him and Elaine

Ford. He characterized the Ford divorce as a “blood bath” and

indicated that he “wanted no part of it.” Respondent also indicated

that “these situations only hurt the children” and that if it

continued, he would withdraw.

     27.   Respondent does not dispute speaking to Ms. Olivera about

Grievant’s case.

     28.   During the latter part of March, 2000, Frank Ford alleges

he and Elaine Ford decided they did not want Respondent to represent

them further. Grievant and his ex—wife agreed to the terms of a

Separation Agreement, and executed the agreement. Grievant then

prepared a Complaint for divorce which Elaine Ford filed. The parties

proceeded with their divorce pro se.

     29.   In July and August of 2000, Grievant faxed Respondent

letters articulating his concerns regarding Respondent’s
representation and seeking the return of the $500.00 fee which he

paid, or an accounting. Respondent did not respond to either letter.

     AGGRAVATING FACTORS

     The aggravating factors consist of the fact that there were

multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and involved

two groups of clients.

     MITIGATING FACTORS

     Respondent fully cooperated during the investigation and was

forthcoming in all material aspects including the discussions

regarding the proposed Discipline by Consent. Moreover, the facts

addressed during the investigation indicated that Respondent was

motivated by his desire to represent his clients, not personal gain.

The Investigator was convinced of Respondent’s good faith and his

belief that he was acting in his client’s best interests,

notwithstanding the violation of the RPC’S identified.

     Additionally, Elaine Ford and Oscar Olivera telephoned this

office in support of the respondent and articulated their

satisfaction with the services he provided them.

     C.   AGREED DISCIPLINARY SANCTION AND LEGAL PRECEDENT

     Reprimand is the agreed disciplinary sanction. Ample precedent

exists for the imposition of a reprimand as the sanction.

     For example, where an attorney has failed to provide a signed

retainer agreement in violation of RPC 1.5(h), admonition has been

deemed an appropriate discipline. See, Matter of Feinstein, 144 N.J.

169 (1996).
     Since additional disciplinary rules were violated, admonition

does not constitute the appropriate measure of discipline. Therefore,

the totality of the RPC’s which were violated must be reviewed in

order to arrive at an appropriate discipline.

     In addition to violating RPC 1.5(b), respondent failed to

communicate with grievant between December 16, 1999 through Mid-

February 2000, a violation of RPC 1.4(a). Where an attorney violates

RPC 1.4(a), reprimand has been deemed an appropriate sanction. See,

Matter of Park, 152 N.J. 27 (1997). Indeed, in Park, the attorney’s

conduct was also violative of RPC 8.1(b) (failure to cooperate with

disciplinary authorities), and RPC 8.4(c) (conduct involving

dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation). Id. Notwithstanding

the fact that the attorney’s conduct in Park was far more egregious

than respondent’s conduct in this case and involved a failure to

cooperate in the investigation and conduct involving dishonesty,

reprimand was still deemed the appropriate sanction.

     Reprimand has also been deemed an appropriate discipline when an

attorney violates RPC 1.7. See Matter of Kessler, 152 N.J. 488

(1998);   Matter of Nadel, 147 N.J. 558 (1997).    Even where multiple

violations of RPC 1.7 have been committed reprimand has been selected

as the appropriate sanction.   See, Matter of Porro, 134 N.J. 524

(1993).

     Finally, with regard to Respondent’s violation of RPC 1.6, the

investigator submits that reprimand is also the appropriate measure

of discipline. See, Matter of Park, supra, where respondent’s conduct

was for more serious than present here.
     Taken together, and in light of the mitigating factors

outweighing the nominal aggravating factors, it is submitted that

reprimand constitutes the appropriate measure of sanction.

     D.   RESPONDENT’S REPRESENTATIONS

     By entering into this stipulation, respondent agrees that this

disciplinary action will proceed directly to the Disciplinary Review

Board (hereinafter Board), by way of motion for discipline by

consent, for review on the written record in accordance with R.1:20—

10(b)(3). No further documentation beyond the record submitted will

be accepted by the Board.

     Respondent understands that, should the Board grant the motion

for discipline by consent, it shall submit the written record to the

Supreme Court for further action in accordance with R.l:20-16(e).

Respondent further understands that, in the event the motion for

discipline by consent is denied by the Board, the disciplinary

proceeding shall proceed at the district ethics committee level as if

no motion has been made. If the motion for discipline by consent is

denied, this stipulation shall not be admitted into evidence in any

proceeding.

     E.   SIGNATURE, RECOMMENDATION AND APPROVAL

     /s/ Mark L. Hopkins, Respondent               09/11/01

     /s/ Joseph Delgado, Investigator/Presenter    09/11/01

     /s/ Illegible Signature, Chair, DEC           09/12/01
                   MOTION FOR DISCIPLINE BY CONSENT

                                              SUPREME COURT OF NEW JERSEY
                                                DISCIPLINARY REVIEW BOARD
                                            District Docket No. X-00—095E
                                                           Docket No. DRB


    Investigator’s Name Joseph T. Delgado, Esq.
    Address             180 River Road, Summit, New Jersey 07902
    Phone               (908) 918—3036
    MOVING PARTY


                                            Disciplinary Action
     IN THE MATTER OF MARK L. HOPKINS
                                            NOTICE OF MOTION
     AN ATTORNEY AT LAW                     FOR
                                            DISCIPLINE BY CONSENT

     TO:   Mark L. Hopkins, Esq.
           33 Schooleys Mountain Road
           Long Valley, New Jersey 07853.

     PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that, pursuant to R.1:20-10(b), the
undersigned petitions the Disciplinary Review Board for imposition of
discipline by consent.

     TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that, at the time and place selected by the
Board, application will be made to impose upon you a reprimand.

     TAKE FURTHER NOTICE that, pursuant to R.1:20—10(b), no oral
argument will be held, and the Board’s determination shall be on the
written record.



                                    /s/ Joseph T. Delgado
Dated: September 11, 2001           Investigator
                                    District X Ethics Committee

								
To top