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Seven-year delay in docketing judgment draws ethics complaint against Middlesex County lawyer.

A Perth Amboy personal injury lawyer is in ethics hot water for allegedly failing to promptly enter his client’s $427,737.86 judgment on the Superior Court’s Civil Judgment and Order Docket. Entering a judgment on this Docket causes it to become a lien against any real estate owned by the judgment debtor.

The July 17, 2019 ethics complaint, authored by ethics investigator Bryan D. Plocker of the Woodbridge law firm of Hutt & Shimanowitz, claims that Karim Arzadi agreed to represent Belleville resident Kategia Binion in a slip-and-fall accident in August 2003. Arzadi allegedly filed a civil complaint on Binion’s behalf in December 2003 and successfully obtained a $427,737.86 judgment against the defendant on January 6, 2006. According to the ethics complaint, however, Arzadi did not enter the judgment on the state-wide Civil Judgment and Order Docket until November 2013, nearly eight years later. The complaint also alleges that Arzadi did not communicate with Binion during this nearly 8-year period.

The complaint charges Arzadi with two violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct: a) a violation of R.P.C. 1.3 for failing to attend to a client’s matter “with reasonable diligence and promptness” and b) a violation of R.P.C. 1.4 for failing to “keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter.”

Arzadi retained New Brunswick lawyer Joseph J. Benedict of Benedict & Altman to defend against the ethics complaint. In his September 11, 2019 sworn answer, Arzadi admitted to the delay but claimed that Binion knew that the judgment was just a “paper document” and that it was uncollectible because the defendant had no insurance and no assets. He also claimed that although his practice is to docket judgments promptly, his office manager “failed to perform a ministerial function assigned to her.”

In response to the R.P.C. 1.4 charge, Arzadi claimed that “until Binion contacted him regarding a foreclosure action, there was no change in the status of this matter, both Binion’s and [Arzadi’s] understanding that the judgment was uncollectable.” Neither the complaint nor answer makes any other reference to his foreclosure matter or explains its relation to collection of Binion’s judgment.

In his response, Arzadi asserted as a defense that he has “enjoyed a good reputation” over his 32 years of practicing law. He does note, however, that he “has one prior disciplinary matter which [he] acknowledges was a serious breach of Professional Responsibility.” The prior matter was a 4-count ethics complaint that was resolved by a December 5, 2013 Order of the New Jersey Supreme Court that suspended Arzadi from practicing law for six months.

The present case was originally filed in District VIII (Middlesex County) and assigned Docket No. VIII-2018-0008E. It was later transferred to District VB (Essex County) and assigned Docket No. VB-2019-0904E. The complaint and answer are on-line here.

What is written above is just a summary and the complaint and Arzadi’s answer should be read in their entirety in order to obtain the best understanding of the case. The ethics charges are only allegations–nothing has been proven. Arzadi has a right to a hearing and the burden of proof is on disciplinary officials to prove that he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence.

Since 1995, attorney disciplinary hearings have been open to the public. Anyone who is interested in being notified in advance of any hearings on Arzadi’s matter may complete and send a hearing request form to the District VB Ethics Committee Secretary Paula Getty via fax to 973-226-4359.

By John Paff

Chairman of the New Jersey Libertarian Party's Open Government Advocacy Project