Risk Update

Law Firm Risk News — Disqualification Decision, Discipline for Defrauding Drama

BB&K Disqualified From Calif. School District Cleanup Suit” —

  • “Best Best & Krieger LLP has been disqualified from representing a California city in its battle with a local school district over cleanup costs for contamination on a school property, with a federal judge ruling that the bid to remove the firm, which came three years into the litigation, was not too late.”
  • “U.S. District Judge Maame Ewusi-Mensah Frimpong in her Tuesday decision rejected BB&K’s argument that the Long Beach Unified School District’s motion to disqualify was an ‘eleventh hour’ tactic in its yearslong suit against the firm’s client, the city of Avalon. The school district, Judge Frimpong said, raised the issue as soon as it realized the extent of the firm’s prior work for the district.”
  • “‘The District has submitted multiple declarations attesting that it did not actually perceive the conflict of interest until October 2021, when a review of … privileged documents revealed that talking points contemplating litigation related to the contamination at the Avalon School had been shared with BB&K during their prior representation,’ Judge Frimpong wrote in the decision.”
  • “The school district moved to disqualify BB&K in January, saying that it had recently discovered documents showing that while representing the district in the mid-2000s, the firm had been given access to privileged and confidential documents that concerned the contamination and potential litigation.”
  • “BB&K fired back that the district had known of the potential conflict all along and had trotted out its motion to disqualify now as the case proceeds toward trial. The firm also implied that the timing of the motion was suspect, coming just months after BB&K successfully argued for summary judgment on four of the district’s five claims.”

Attorneys Disciplined for Defrauding Law Firm, Power Grab at Branch Office, Other Ethics Violations” —

  • “Nancy Martellio was suspended three months after sending misleading letters to clients in an attempt to take control of a branch office of her firm.”
  • “Neil Mittin is barred from pro hac vice admission in New Jersey after he devised a scheme to get a bigger cut of fees from personal injury suits from his law firm.”
  • “Gareth David DeSantiago-Keene was issued a three-month suspension after he allowed a client to set up an account on the state judiciary’s eCourts system in his name.”
  • “Two attorneys have been disciplined in separate cases after demonstrating disloyalty to their law firms. A Vineland lawyer received a suspension for plotting a takeover of a branch office of her firm, and a Philadelphia lawyer was hit with reciprocal discipline for a scheme to get a bigger share of the fees in his firm’s personal injury cases.”
  • “Nancy Martellio was suspended three months for her efforts to take over a branch office of her firm. Martellio worked for Goldenberg, Mackler, Sayegh, Mintz, Pfeffer, Bonchi & Gill when she was asked to open a new office for the firm in Vineland. She established the new office in 2012 and worked there until 2015. Martellio thought, wrongly, that the firm was planning to shut down the Vineland office after the managing partner sent out a memo discussing streamlining, according to court records.”
  • “Court records show that on April 10, 2015, she had the office locks changed and did not inform the firm of the change. Three days later, she incorporated the name Law Office of Nancy Martellio at the Vineland address used by the Goldenberg Mackler office.”
  • “On April 20, Martellio sent out letters to 150 clients on Goldenberg Mackler letterhead, announcing that the Vineland office was being taken over by her solo practice.”
  • “The Disciplinary Review Board found that the client letter that Martellio sent out contained material misrepresentations and omissions that made it misleading. And her false representation to the landlord that she was authorized to terminate the lease on the Vineland office was forgery, and against the law, though she was not charged with a crime.”
  • “‘There is no evidence that Goldenberg Mackler was planning to close its Vineland office or to transfer client files to the Atlantic City location. To the contrary, the record reflects that [the firm] never planned to close its Vineland location and still maintains a presence in Vineland. Therefore, by virtue of respondent’s intentionally misleading letter, she provided [the firm’s] clients with information based on her misguided perception, which she intentionally chose not to fact-check,’ the DRB said.”