Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lawyer, who serves as Mayor of Orange, battles ethics charges.

On May 6, 2016, the District VC Ethics Committee, which processes ethics complaints against lawyers in west Essex County, filed a formal ethics complaint against Orange Mayor Dwayne D. Warren.  Warren denied the charges in a June 23, 2016 response filed by Aaron Mizrahi who is Warren's partner in the Orange-based firm of Mizrahi Warren, LLP.  Both the complaint and answer are on-line here.

The ethics complaint, which is being presented by Nancy A. Del Pizzo, a partner in the Hackensack firm of Rivkin Radler LLP, arose out of Warren's alleged failure to represent Sharon Berry in a foreclosure matter and also his alleged failure to reimburse her $3,000 retainer payment even after having been ordered to do so by a Fee Arbitration Committee.  The complaint also alleges that Warren was uncooperative with ethics officials and "falsely represented to the hearing panel chair that the matter was settling."

Warren claims that Berry retained him to file a motion to vacate a foreclosure judgment that had been entered against her home because she had not been properly served with the foreclosure complaint.  After investigating the matter, Warren claims that he learned that Berry actually had been properly served and that he advised her that the planned motion to vacate would be fruitless.  Warren claimed that Berry then "shift[ed] course" and asked him to instead "file a motion to rescind the Sheriff's Sale based upon her claim that she had been granted a loan modification by [the mortgage lender]."  Warren claims that the lender denied offering a loan modification and that he told Berry that he could not pursue the motion and that a lawsuit against the lender "could expose both Warren and her to damages because it was a frivolous claim."

Regarding the $3,000 retainer, Warren said that he did not actively participate in the Fee Arbitration matter because he had verbally settled with Berry by promising to reimburse her the retainer in full.  According to the complaint, however, Berry "testified under oath that she had not agreed to a settlement and that she had signed nothing."

Regarding the alleged false representations and non-cooperation charges, Warren claimed that he provided Fee Arbitration Committee Chair Marianne Greenwald with a copy of the settlement agreement signed by him (but not by Berry) and a copy of the $3,000 check Warren was prepared to give to Berry and that Greenwald told him that he didn't need to appear at the hearing. 

He said that after learning about the Fee Committee's award, he attempted to send Berry the $3,000 but that the address he had on file for Berry was incorrect and that he sent the check after learning the correct address.

This is only a summary of the complaint and answer and readers who want more information and context are directed to the filed documents which are on-line at the link above. None of the allegations against Warren have been proven. The charges will be tried before an ethics panel and the burden is on the ethics authorities to prove their allegations. 

Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public.  Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on this matter may complete and send a hearing request form to Ethics Secretary Jay M. Silberner via fax to 973-379-3197.