Legal Director of PA Union Disbarred From Practicing Law

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776’s current legal director was disbarred from the practice of law over 20 years ago.

Edward C. Chew III is the Executive Assistant to the President and Legal Director of UFCW 1776. Chew is also the Chairman of the UFCW Local 1776 Legal Trust Fund.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey disbarred Chew from the practice of law “for the knowing misappropriation of client funds” in 1992. According to the Pennsylvania Disciplinary Review Board’s website, Chew remains ineligible to practice law in the state of Pennsylvania.

Chew was admitted as a member of the New Jersey bar in 1985, according to court documents, and at least seven instances of misappropriation took place between 1989 and 1990 in which Chew diverted more than $40,000 in client funds to his own personal bank account. Nicholas Panarella, Jr., Esq. had hired Chew in January 1989 to oversee his law offices in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Chew, “therefore, had control of Panarella’s general escrow accounts maintained in both states.”

Chew was temporarily suspended from practicing law in 1990. The disbarment process following the suspension was marked by Chew’s unwillingness to produce requested records, return required paperwork and keep appointments. In fact, his lawyer withdrew from the case because Chew missed several of their meetings. And Chew did not even attend the final District Ethics Committee hearing, despite being notified.

According to the Decision and Recommendation of the Disciplinary Review Board of New Jersey:

Respondent attempted to justify his conduct… by explaining that 1.) he was going through a divorce and he was continuing to meet his wife’s excessive financial needs for cars, jewelry and other expensive items; 2.) he used a portion of the monies he had taken to satisfy several fee disputes that had been generated prior to his association with Panarella; and 3.) he had anticipated receiving fees from several cases that he had taken to the Panarella firm and intended to repay the clients and Panarella from those fees.

But, according to a 1986 New Jersey Supreme Court decision, “It makes no difference whether the money is used for a good purpose or a bad purpose, for the benefit of the lawyer or for the benefit of others, or whether the lawyer intended to return the money when he took it, or whether in fact he ultimately did reimburse the client; nor does it matter that the pressures on the lawyer to take the money were great or minimal.

Chew was formally disbarred for “misappropriation of client funds” in 1992.

Chew was employed with the UFCW as early as 1996 and now is one of their highest-paid officials. He made $168,702 in 2013, or $188,023 with disbursements.