STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
George Sovak, Complainant vs. Gerald P. Smith, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #06-0315
Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 80 Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut on July 13, 2006.† The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on March 31, 2006 and the probable cause determination filed by the Fairfield Judicial District Grievance Panel on May 24, 2006, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3 and 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book Section 2-32(a)(1).††††††
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant, to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, and to the Respondent on June 2, 2006.† Pursuant to Practice Book Section 2-35(d), Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King pursued the matter before this reviewing committee. The Complainant and the Respondent did not appear at the hearing.† James Bender testified as a witness for Disciplinary Counsel. †No exhibits were admitted into evidence at the hearing.
This reviewing committee makes the following findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence:
On October 7, 2005, the Complainant retained the Respondent to represent him in dissolution of marriage proceedings.† The Respondent provided the Complainant with a written fee agreement which the Complainant signed on October 13, 2005.† The Complainant paid the Respondent an initial retainer in the amount of $1500.00.
On and between October 13, 2005 and March 11, 2006, the Complainant telephoned, faxed, and e-mailed the Respondent regarding his dissolution of marriage case but received no response from the Respondent.† The Complainantís wife was represented in the dissolution of marriage action by Attorney John P. Febbroriello.† Attorney Febbroriello wrote to the Respondent on December 19, 2005 regarding a proposed report but received no response from the Respondent.† On January 3, 2006 and January 10, 2006, Attorney Febbrorielloís legal assistant sent the Respondent a facsimile requesting a response from the Respondent but received no reply.† Attorney Febbroriello followed up with a letter to the Respondent dated January 10, 2006 requesting a response from the Respondent but received no reply.† On January 26, 2006 and March 8, 2006, Attorney Febbroriello wrote to the Litchfield Superior Court Family Law Clerk informing the Court of the Respondentís lack of response and mailed the Respondent a copy of each letter.† The Respondent did not file an answer to this grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee also considered the following:
James Bender is an investigator for the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.† In this capacity, he testified that he telephoned the Respondent but could only reach the Respondentís voice mail which was full.† Thereafter, on June 19, 2006, Mr. Bender traveled to the Respondentís home and spoke with the Respondent regarding this grievance complaint.† Mr. Bender testified that the Respondent said he had not checked his mail, but that he would.† Despite this, no response was received from the Respondent.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Practice Book by clear and convincing evidence:
The Respondentís failure to take any action on the Complainantís dissolution of marriage case after being retained constitutes a violation of Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† The Respondent exercised no diligence or promptness in representing the Complainant.† The Respondent failed to respond to opposing counselís attempts to proceed with the dissolution of marriage action.† The Respondentís failure to respond to the Complainantís numerous requests for information by telephone, facsimile, and e-mail between October 13, 2005 and the present constitutes a violation of Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† The Respondent has made no attempt to keep the Complainant informed about the status of his dissolution of marriage action.
The Respondentís failure to file a response to this grievance complaint constitutes a violation of Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).† Failure to file a response without good cause constitutes misconduct.
Accordingly, this reviewing committee directs the Disciplinary Counsel to file a presentment against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the court deems appropriate.
DECISION DATE: 9/1/06
Attorney Kathleen D. Stingle
Attorney John C. Matulis, Jr.
Dr. Frank G. Regan