STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
New London Judicial District Grievance Panel, Complainantvs. Joseph Cozzolino, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #01-1058
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, One Court Street, Middletown, Connecticut on March 13, 2003. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on June 10, 2002, and the probable cause determination filed by a reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee on December 20, 2002, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 5.5(1) and 8.4(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The reviewing committee's finding was contrary to the finding of no probable cause filed by the New Britain Judicial District and the Judicial District of Hartford for Geographical Area 12 and the towns of Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Farmington and West Hartford Grievance Panel on October 25, 2002.
&Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on February 4, 2003. Neither the Complainant nor the Respondent appeared at the hearing. At the request of this reviewing committee, two exhibits were made part of the record prior to the hearing.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Respondent was suspended indefinitely from the practice of law in the state of Rhode Island on June 19, 2001 due to his misconduct and extensive grievance history. Pursuant to Practice Book §2-39(a), the Office of the Statewide Bar Counsel initiated a reciprocal discipline proceeding against the Respondent. Prior to the commencement of a hearing held on March 4, 2002 in the reciprocal discipline action, the Respondent asked Assistant Bar Counsel to deliver an envelope and its contents to the Office of the Statewide Grievance Committee. Statewide Grievance Committee v Cozzolino, CV01-0807173. The Assistant Bar Counsel complied with the request. On March 4, 2002, the Respondent was still under suspension from the practice of law in Rhode Island. The Respondent was disbarred from the practice of law as a result of the reciprocal discipline proceeding on July 8, 2003.
The envelope contained a return address that read: Joseph A. Cozzolino, Attorney at Law; 16 High Street, Suite 6; Westerly, Rhode Island 02891. The envelope contained a copy of check #1116 written on the Washington Trust Co. account #04001012 in the amount of $75.00. The payee on the check was the Client Security Fund. The check contained the following information on the payor: Joseph A. Cozzolino; Attorney at Law; Clients' Account. The purpose of the check was to pay the Respondent's delinquent client security fund fee, pursuant to Practice Book Section 2-70. Bar Counsel brought these facts to the attention of a grievance panel for further investigation. The Respondent's answer to the grievance panel's inquiry was hand written on stationery with the letterhead bearing the following language:
“Joseph A. Cozzolino
Attorney at Law
16 High Street Suite 6
Subsequently, a grievance complaint was filed.
The record indicates that, pursuant to Practice Book §2-27(d), the Respondent registered Washington Trust Co. bank account #4003012 in Westerly, Rhode Island as his primary trust account, as defined in Practice Book §2-28(b), for the period of March 1, 2000 through April 2, 2002.
This reviewing committee also considered the following:
In his answer to the grievance panel, the Respondent did not address the appropriateness of his use of the title "Attorney" in the State of Rhode Island on his checks, envelopes and stationery while suspended from the practice of law in that state. The Respondent maintained that, although the checks identified the Washington trust account as clients' funds, the only funds in it were his own funds. The Respondent explained that he continued to use the checks at the advice of Washington Trust.
This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondent's use of the title "Attorney" in the State of Rhode Island on his checks, envelopes and stationery while suspended from the practice of law gave the appearance that he was an attorney in good standing in Rhode Island and constituted the unauthorized practice of law in the State of Rhode Island, in violation of Rule 5.5(1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. This conduct also misrepresented the status of the Respondent's law license in Rhode Island in violation of Rule 8.4(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
This reviewing committee finds that the Respondent's violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct warrant the imposition of discipline. This reviewing committee considered the Respondent’s suspension from the practice of law and his subsequent disbarment in Rhode Island and Connecticut to be aggravating factors in considering the appropriate discipline. Accordingly, we order the Respondent presented to the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the Court deems appropriate. Since we are ordering that the Respondent be presented to the Superior Court, and a presentment is a de novo proceeding, we order that the presentment complaint include the charge that the Respondent maintained his personal funds in an account designated for the protection of clients' funds, and used those funds for his own purposes, in violation of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book §2-27(a).
Attorney Carl Fortuna
Attorney Lorraine Eckert