Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Cranford lawyer accused of not returning file promptly in toxic mold case and for not cooperating with ethics authorities.

A Cranford (Union County) attorney is facing ethics charges for not properly withdrawing from representation after his client discharged him and for not cooperating with ethics authorities.  The attorney has filed an answer denying most of the charges.

In District XII Ethics Committee v. Andrew J. Calcagno, Docket No. XII-2016-0043E, Scotch Plains lawyer Thomas G. Russomano, who is prosecuting the matter, said that Calcagno had agreed to file a lawsuit against his clients' landlord due to the presence of toxic mold in their apartment.  According to the ethics complaint, the clients, after not hearing anything further from Calcagno, fired him and hired a new lawyer.  The new lawyer was reportedly not able to get Calcagno to turn over the clients' file and the clients filed an ethics grievance against Calcagno on October 28, 2014.  According to Russomano, Calcagno did not respond to letters sent on October 24, 2016 and November 14, 2016 letters that asked him to contact an ethics investigator within ten days.  Calcagno ultimately turned the file over to the new lawyer on November 22, 2016, according to the complaint.

In his answer, which is also at the link above, Calcagno denied the complaint's allegation that the clients had terminated him.  He also denied receiving the new attorney's September 10, 2016 and September 28, 2016 letters and September 12 2016 e-mail.  Calcagno admitted receiving the new attorney's October 8, 2016 e-mail but said that the e-mail "constitutes an unethical and unlawful threat and is tantamount to blackmail and/or extortion."

Calcagno also admitted to not timely responding the the ethics investigator's two letters but said that he "had extenuating circumstances, including but not limited to, [his] father suffering a stroke and [his] subsequent responsibilities as his father's sole caregiver."  Calcagno also said that he had communicated with one of his clients "on a frequent basis and repeatedly informed her that [he] would not be able to proceed with her case without documented evidence that she had been exposed to toxic mold."

The ethics charges are only allegations--nothing has been proven. Calcagno has a right to a hearing and the burden of proof is on Russomano. 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 the District XII Ethics Committee in care of Secretary Michael Brandman via fax to 908-272-0525.