Katherine C. Smith, Complainant vs.Robert A. Izzo, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #01-0741
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 95 Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut on August 8, 2002. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on February 25, 2002, and the probable cause determination filed by the New Britain Judicial District and Hartford Geographical Area 12 and the towns of Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Farmington and West Hartford Grievance Panel on May 15, 2002, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3 and 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book Section 2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on June 25, 2002. The Complainant appeared at the hearing and testified. The Respondent did not appear before this reviewing committee.
The Complainant was advised that reviewing committee member Attorney David Curry would not be present at the hearing. The Complainant waived the participation of Attorney Curry. Accordingly, this decision was rendered by the undersigned.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
Donald Kaye passed away on June 30, 1998. The Complainant was Mr. Kaye's daughter and the executrix of Mr. Kaye's estate. The Complainant retained the Respondent to represent her in the probate of Mr. Kaye's estate, including the sale of the estate property, in or about July of 1998. The Complainant paid the Respondent $900 for this representation. The Respondent began performing the probate of Mr. Kaye's estate but failed to complete the accounting required by the probate court.
At the time of Mr. Kaye's demise he owned real estate in Southington, Connecticut (hereinafter referred to as "the Southington property") that the Complainant, as executrix, needed to sell. The Respondent performed the closing after the probate court approved the sale. Out of the sale proceeds of the Southington property the Respondent was to pay, inter alia, probate court fees in the amount of $452.40. The Respondent advised the Complainant that he did not have enough money in his Webster Bank clients' funds account to pay the entire probate fee. Instead, the Respondent paid a partial payment of $301.80 to the probate court from his clients' funds account.
The Complainant testified at the hearing that there should have been sufficient funds from the sale of the Southington property with which to pay the probate fees. The Complainant also testified that the judge of probate in Southington called Webster Bank upon receipt of the check for $301.80 and was told that there were not sufficient funds in the Respondent's clients' funds account to cover that check either. Because of the concerns raised regarding the Respondent's handling of her affairs, the Complainant began acting on her own behalf in order to complete the probate of her father's estate.
The Respondent did not answer the grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent engaged in serious misconduct. The Respondent was retained to protect the Complainant’s interests by providing the Complainant with diligent and competent representation in regard to the probate of Mr. Kaye's estate, and failed to do so, in violation of Rules 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Further, the Respondent acquired funds on behalf of the Complainant and failed to safeguard them in violation of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent also violated Practice Book §2-32(a)(1) by failing to answer the grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee finds that the Respondent's violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Practice Book constitute serious misconduct and warrant the imposition of discipline. Accordingly, we order that the Respondent be presented to the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the Court deems appropriate.
Attorney Vincent DeAngelo
Ms. Johanna Kimball