Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Linden lawyer defends himself against charge that he failed to file expungement petition.

A Linden (Union County) attorney facing charges for not diligently filing an expungement petition claimed that his actions were justified because his client got arrested twice after the petition's fee was negotiated and then did not pay an additional fee for extra legal work necessitated by the two arrests.

In District XII Ethics Committee v. Michael G. Brucki, Docket No. XII-2016-0027E, Union lawyer Robert J. Logan, who is prosecuting the matter, said that Brucki accepted a $600 fee in April of 2012 but failed to file an expungement petition that would have would have removed two arrests from his client's record.  According to the ethics complaint, the client first learned of Brucki's failure to file the petition after she was denied an insurance producer's license in 2016.

In his February 23, 2017 answer to the complaint, Brucki claimed that he first met the client, Kathiuska Gomez, after she was charged in 2008 with 2nd degree robbery which exposed her to both a prison term and deportation.  He claimed that after a great deal of work, he was able to get Gomez into the pretrial intervention (PTI) program provided that she had no prior convictions.  After learning from Gomez that she did have a prior shoplifting offense in West Paterson, Brucki said that he had that case reopened and the shoplifting charge dismissed, according to Brucki's filed answer.

Brucki said that he and Gomez first starting discussing expunging her record in early 2010 but Gomez did not have any money to pay his fee at that time.  Then, Brucki claimed, Gomez came to his office in September 2011 after having been arrested for shoplifting in Old Bridge.  Brucki said that he was able to get that charge dismissed.  Finally, in March and April 2012, Gomez paid the fee to have the expungement move forward but, according to Brucki, he could not file the paperwork until after he received dispositions from the Old Bridge matters.  About a month after that, Brucki claimed, Gomez came to his office in a hysterical state and told him that she had been arrested for theft in Paramus.  Again, Brucki claimed, he was able to have the Paramus case dismissed.

When Gomez again brought up the expungement petition, Brucki claimed that he told her that her subsequent arrests would require a lot more work and would require a $1,500 fee instead of the $600 she had already paid.  He said that he met with Gomez in April 2014 to start work on the new expungement petition but that Gomez did not have the money to pay the additional legal fee.  Brucki claimed that he didn't file the petition because Gomez did not pay the additional fee and that Gomez never contacted him about applying for an insurance producer's license.

The ethics charges are only allegations--nothing has been proven. Similarly, Brucki's claims regarding Gomez have not been tested or adjudicated. 

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.