STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Andrew C. Harduby III and Lorene Lewin, Complainants vs. Robert Izzo, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #01-0761
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 March 1, 2002, and the probable cause determination filed by the New Britain Judicial District and Judicial District of Hartford for 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 and 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Prior to the hearing, this reviewing committee issued an additional finding of probable cause that the Respondent violated Practice Book Section 2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainants and to the Respondent on June 25, 2002. The Complainants appeared at the hearing and testified. The Respondent did not appear before this reviewing committee.
The Complainants were advised that reviewing committee member Attorney David Curry would not be present at the hearing. The Complainants 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:
The Complainants retained the Respondent to represent Complainant Andrew Harduby, III in two criminal matters in or about July 2001. Pending in Meriden was one count of violation of a protective order. Pending in Bristol were four counts of violating probation. Also in July 2001, the Complainants began paying the Respondent $100 per week towards the retainer.
On or about November 28, 2001, Complainant Harduby was sentenced to fifteen months in prison for the probation violations. On or about December 2, 2001 the Respondent advised the Complainants that the judge would be inclined to reduce Complainant Harduby's sentence to in- house arrest if the Complainants were willing to make a donation of a toy to a charity. On December 6, 2001 the Respondent suggested instead that the Complainants donate $500 in cash to a charity. On or about December 28, 2001 the Respondent again changed his advice and suggested that the Complainants make a cash donation to a September 11, 2001 fund. The Complainants paid the Respondent $250 for this advice. The Respondent advised the Complainants that he would repay this money if the judge did not reduce Complainant Hardubuy's sentence. In addition, the Complainants continued to pay the Respondent $100 a week toward legal fees.
Complainant Harduby was scheduled for a hearing on January 3, 2002 in Bristol Superior Court. On January 2, 2002 the Respondent advised Complainant Harduby that he did not need to attend the hearing and that the Respondent was going to request a continuance on his behalf. During this conversation Complainant Harduby advised the Respondent that he was very ill. On January 3, 2002 the Respondent telephoned Complainant Harduby and advised him there was no one in Bristol Superior Court to discuss the matter with and that Complainant Harduby ought to come to the court and turn himself in. Complainant Harduby went to the court but the Respondent was not there. Complainant Harduby paged the Respondent who appeared at the court later in the afternoon of January 3. After speaking with a judicial marshal, the Respondent advised Complainant Harduby that it was too late to turn himself in that day. The Respondent further directed Complainant Harduby that he should get a physician's note explaining that he had not appeared due to illness.
On January 4, 2002, Complainant Harduby met the Respondent in Meriden Superior Court and gave him the physician's note. The Respondent recommended Complainant Harduby go home and advised him that he would let both courts know Complainant Harduby was ill and would show the courts the physician’s note. Thereafter, Complainant Harduby had a court date scheduled in Meriden on February 5, 2002. The Complainants heard nothing from the Respondent until February 4, 2002 when the Respondent telephoned Complainant Harduby and advised him that he was suspended from the practice of law and would not represent him at the February 5 hearing.
Thereafter, Complainant Harduby heard from his family that the police were looking for him. He telephoned the Respondent and asked him what he should do. The Respondent advised him to hide at his office. Instead, Complainant Harduby turned himself in to the police on February 6, 2002. At that time Complainant Harduby learned he was wanted on four rearrest warrants for failing to appear in Bristol on January 4, 2002.
The Complainants telephoned the Respondent and demanded a refund of the $250 they gave him for the donation to the September 11, 2001 fund. The Respondent refused. The Complainants then filed a criminal complaint against the Respondent. The Respondent refunded $250 to the Complainants on or about March 3, 2002.
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 Complainant Harduby's interests in two criminal matters. The Respondent provided the Complainants with incompetent legal advice regarding his obligations to appear in court and the effect of a charitable donation on Complainant Harduby's sentence in violation of Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent failed to appear at court to defend Complainant Harduby on several occasions in violation of Rule 1.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Further, the Respondent acquired funds from the Complainants under false pretenses in violation of Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent 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 the Respondent be presented to the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the Court deems appropriate.
Attorney Vincent DeAngelo
Ms. Johanna Kimball