Overworked Lawyer Admonished for Missed Discovery Deadlines

The Supreme Court of New Jersey May 2 admonished a lawyer who said his superiors “set him up to fail” by assigning him over 100 cases at once, leading him to miss discovery deadlines in four of the matters.

Andrew S. Rosenbloom joined Sobel Law Group, LLC in April 2012 and shortly thereafter became the sole employee at a new Cherry Hill, New Jersey office, the disciplinary review board said. Rosenbloom represented a regional supermarket operator, Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, in roughly 75 matters in New Jersey and 41 in Pennsylvania, the board said. It wasn’t until almost a year later that the firm gave him a part-time assistant to help him.

Rosenbloom missed discovery deadlines in four of the over 100 matters he handled for A&P simultaneously. Sobel fired him in March 2014, the board said.

Even if a lawyer has generally served his clients well under circumstances beyond his control and there is “significant mitigation” in his favor, discipline still may be imposed if there are clear ethical violations, the case illustrates. But disciplinary authorities may disagree on what sanctions are appropriate, even if all agree as to the mitigation.

Rosenbloom was admitted in New Jersey in 2002. His “caseload was so overwhelming” that four A&P matters “slipped through the cracks,” the board said. Rosenbloom sent “misleading reports” to A&P on the status of these matters, the board said. Rosenbloom agreed that he violated New Jersey Rules of Professional Conduct 1.3 (diligence), 1.4 (communications with client), and 8.4(c) (dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation).

The board recommended a reprimand, which was imposed in Pennsylvania, but the court said an admonition is appropriate.

Set Up to Fail

Rosenbloom said the hearing panel should consider several mitigating factors, including:

  • All A&P cases originated in the New York office. New York filed the answers before Rosbenbloom was involved;
  • Seth Rubine, the New York managing partner and Rosenbloom’s supervisor, was listed as trial counsel in all A&P matters;
  • All mail went directly to the New York office, which calendared all events and deadlines, and then re-routed all notices to Rosenbloom; and
  • Rubine sent matters to Rosenbloom after discovery deadlines had expired and told him to “fix it.”

Rosenbloom also argued the firm “set him up to fail” and used him “as a scapegoat for systemic problems in the firm’s handling of A&P cases,” the board said. He also claimed Curtis Sobel, who filed the ethics complaint, “was vindictive in his treatment,” of Rosenbloom. But Rosenbloom “took full responsibility” for his misconduct the board said.

No Tools to Succeed

Rosenbloom started taking anti-depressant/anxiety medication in March 2014 and experienced “marital difficulties” the board said.

The board agreed with the district ethics committee’s recommendation of a reprimand and said it is required when a misrepresentation is made to a client.

The board acknowledged the “significant mitigation” in that the Sobel firm “failed to provide him with the basic tools necessary to operate a law office and conduct a law practice,” and “saddled [him] with an overwhelming caseload.”

A five-person majority of the board recommended a reprimand and four members recommended an admonition.

The court, without discussion, said “an admonition is the appropriate quantum of discipline.”

The case is In re Rosenbloom, N.J., No. 080078D-15, 5/2/18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mindy Rattan in Washington at mrattan@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: S. Ethan Bowers at sbowers@bloomberglaw.com