STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Hartford Judicial District, G.A. 13 & 14 Grievance Panel, Complainantvs. Paul Lewis, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #00-0406
Hartford Judicial District, G.A. 13 & 14 Grievance Panel, Complainant vs. Paul Lewis, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #00-0551
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted hearings at the Superior Court, 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, Connecticut on June 5, 2001. The hearings addressed the records of Grievance Complaint #00-0406, filed on November 14, 2000, and Grievance Complaint #00-0551, filed on January 10, 2001. In both matters, a probable cause determination was filed by the New Britain/Hartford Judicial District, Geographical Areas 12 & 16 Grievance Panel, on January 17, 2001 and April 17, 2001, respectively, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rule 1.15(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on April 25, 2001. The Complainant appeared through its counsel, Attorney John Quinn. The Respondent appeared and testified. At the request of the reviewing committee, the Respondent provided copies of checks subsequent to the hearing.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
These grievance complaints involve overdrafts from the Respondent’s clients’ trust account. Grievance Complaint #00-0406 involved an overdraft caused by check number 10661 on or about June 15, 2000. Grievance Complaint #00-0551 involved three checks, numbers 10761, 10770 and 10720, causing overdrafts in July and August of 2000.
The Respondent testified that he withdrew $3,000.00 from his clients’ trust account, a short time prior to the first overdraft, in anticipation of receiving a fee in a matter. However, the matter did not settle as anticipated by the Respondent, and the resulting shortfall of funds in the account caused the overdrafts.
The Respondent acknowledged his misconduct and apologized for his actions. Subsequent to the hearing, the Respondent provided the Complainant’s counsel with copies of cancelled checks and other information which satisfied Complainant’s counsel that the payees on the dishonored checks had been made whole.
This reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent’s withdrawal from his clients’ trust account of an anticipated fee prior to the actual receipt of the settlement funds was a clear failure to safekeep property, in violation of Rule 1.15(a). It is the decision of the committee that the Respondent be reprimanded. The committee further requests that the Respondent provide to counsel for the Complainant grievance panel adequate proof, either by way of quarterly reconciliation or audit, that the Respondent’s clients’ trust account is current and in full compliance with the requirements of Practice Book §2-27. The reviewing committee will leave it to the discretion of panel counsel as to whether the Respondent has sufficiently complied with this request, recognizing that the Respondent’s failure to maintain his clients’ trust account in compliance with Practice Book §2-27 could form the basis of a new grievance complaint.
Accordingly, the Respondent is hereby reprimanded.
Attorney Frederick W. Krug
Attorney Katherine Webster-O’Keefe
Ms. Johanna Kimball