Legal Ethics

Sanctions Weighed in Associate Blunder

A federal judge is asking federal prosecutors and state disciplinary authorities to review lawyers’ conduct in connection with four mortgage fraud cases.

U.S. District Judge Harold Ackerman of Newark, N.J., is also considering sanctions against the lawyers’ firm, Cole, Schotz, Meisel, Forman & Leonard of Hackensack, N.J., the New Jersey Law Journal reports.

Ackerman said an associate for the firm engaged in a “back alley” tactic when he inquired about an opposing attorney’s personal mortgages. The associate, with the knowledge of two partners, called a bank and asked if its client, Kennedy Funding Inc., could acquire the mortgages, the legal newspaper reports.

The opposing attorney, Gregg Trautmann, is representing consumers who claim Kennedy Funding charged improper fees.

Lawyers for the law firm appeared at a hearing on Monday to apologize for the conduct. They offered to withdraw from the four mortgage cases, to send the errant lawyers to ethics classes, and to pay fees and expenses.

Jeffrey Wolfer, the president of Kennedy Funding, told the newspaper that the mortgage company did not know about the associate’s inquiry, and would not have purchased the mortgages in any event. “I’m not happy with what has gone on here, and I am very bothered,” he said.

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