STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Bernadette Kazibwe, Complainant vs. Paul Ngobeni, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #06-0355
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 August 3, 2006.† The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on April 13, 2006, and the probable cause determination 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 June 8, 2006, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 8.1(2) and 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant, to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, and to the Respondent on July 7, 2006.† Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35(d), Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King pursued the matter before this reviewing committee. †The Complainant appeared at the hearing and testified. †The Respondent did not appear at the hearing. A prehearing memorandum was filed by the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainant retained the Respondent on October 14, 2004 to represent her in a criminal matter.† The Complainant paid the Respondent $1000 for his services but was not provided with a written retainer agreement.† The Respondent did not appear at the Complainantís first court date in December of 2004.† Following the December hearing, the Complainant telephoned the Respondent, but the Respondent failed to return the Complainantís telephone calls. The Respondent, however, appeared at the next scheduled hearing date.† Following this hearing, the Complainant made numerous telephone calls to the Respondent and sent several emails to the Respondent regarding the status of her case.† The Respondent failed to respond to the Complainantís telephone calls and emails.
The Complainant eventually telephoned the court directly to determine the status of her case and was advised that a warrant for her arrest had been issued for her failure to appear at a court hearing in November of 2005.† The Respondent never advised the Complainant that a hearing was scheduled in November of 2005.† Upon learning this information, the Complainant sent a facsimile to the Respondent on April 1, 2006 advising him of the arrest warrant.† The Respondent did not respond to the Complainantís facsimile.† The Complainant eventually turned herself into the police and was arrested for failure to appear.† The Complainant was required to pay a $10,000 bond in order to be released from jail and had to pay $875 to retain another attorney.
The Complainant filed this grievance complaint against the Respondent on April 13, 2006. On April 18, 2006, the Respondent was sent a copy of the grievance complaint and directed to respond to the grievance panel within thirty days.† The Respondent did not respond to the grievance complaint as directed.
This reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent engaged in unethical conduct.† The Respondentís failure to appear in court on behalf of the Complainant and his failure to advise the Complainant of the November 2005 court date which led to her arrest for failure to appear constitutes a lack of competence, a lack of diligence and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rules 1.1, 1.3 and 8.4(4), respectively, of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
We further conclude that the Respondent failed to adequately communicate with the Complainant in violation of Rule 1.4(a) and (b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to respond to the Complainantís telephone calls, emails and facsimiles requesting information regarding the status of her case and by failing to advise her of the November 2005 court date.
With respect to the Respondentís fee, the record indicates that the Complainant paid the Respondent $1000 for his services, but that the Respondent failed to perform any services, other than appear at one court hearing.† We conclude that the Respondentís fee was unreasonable in violation of Rule 1.5(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct considering the negligible amount of work done on the Complainantís case.
Lastly, the Respondentís failure to file a response to the grievance complaint constitutes a violation of Rule 8.1(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).
This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondentís violations of Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4(a) and (b), 1.5(a), 8.1(2) and 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1) constitute serious misconduct.† Accordingly, we direct Disciplinary Counsel to file a presentment against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the court may deem appropriate.† Additionally, this reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent failed to provide the Complainant with a written retainer agreement in violation of Rule 1.5(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† Accordingly, we further direct Disciplinary Counsel to include a violation of Rule 1.5(b) in the presentment complaint, since the presentment will be a trial de novo.
DECISION DATE:††††† 9/8/06
Attorney Tracie Molinaro
Attorney David Channing
Mr. Malcolm Forbes