STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Alex M. Perry, Complainant vs. Alvin
E. Taylor, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #06-0849
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted hearings at the Superior Court, 80 Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut on February 8, 2007 and May 10, 2007. The hearings addressed the record of the complaint filed on September 19, 2006, 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 November 22, 2006, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5(a), 8.1(2) and 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book §2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearings were mailed to the Complainant, to the Respondent and to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel on January 8, 2007 and March 29, 2007, respectively. Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35(d), Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Frank P. Blando pursued the matter before this reviewing committee at the February 8, 2007 hearing. Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Jeffrey Donahue pursued this matter before the reviewing committee at the May 10, 2007 hearing. At the February 8, 2007 hearing, the Complainant and the Respondent did not appear. The Respondent did not appear at the May 10, 2007 hearing. The Complainant appeared at the May 10, 2007 hearing and testified. One exhibit was admitted into evidence.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
In July of 2005, the Complainant retained the Respondent to file a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy petition. The Respondent assured the Complainant that certain liens on his personal residence would be removed in connection with the bankruptcy process. The Respondent did not file the bankruptcy until one day before the October 2005 implementation of the new bankruptcy laws. The Respondent did not adequately explain to the Complainant the status of the bankruptcy filing. Although the Respondent returned most of the Complainant’s telephone calls, a number of calls were unreturned. The Respondent did not include the Chapter 7 $75,000 state personal exemption in the bankruptcy filing. The bankruptcy was completed in December of 2005. By letter dated August 26, 2006, the Respondent agreed to reimburse the Complainant $56,600 representing the difference between the Connecticut State exemption of $75,000 and the Federal exemption of $18,400. A hearing on the avoidance of the liens on the Complainant’s personal residence was conducted in connection with a separate process in the federal court in August of 2006. The Respondent did not record the resolution of either the bankruptcy filing or the avoidance of the liens proceedings.
The Respondent did not file an answer to the grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee also considered the following:
The Complainant contended that the Respondent’s error in failing to include the proper Chapter 7 personal exemption in the bankruptcy matter caused the Complainant “considerable financial damage and hardship” and prolonged his pending divorce proceedings. The Complainant testified that the Respondent has not paid any of the money that he acknowledged that he owed the Complainant.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Practice Book by clear and convincing evidence:
This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondent engaged in unethical conduct in connection with his representation of the Complainant in Chapter 7 bankruptcy and lien avoidance proceedings. The Respondent failed to exercise adequate competence and reasonable diligence in representing the Complainant in violation of Rules 1.1 and 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to file the proper exemption in the bankruptcy proceeding and failing to record the resolution of the bankruptcy and lien avoidance proceedings. The Respondent’s failure to include the proper personal exemption was prejudicial to the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent failed to adequately communicate with the Complainant during the pendency of the bankruptcy matter in violation of Rule 1.4, by failing to return a number of the Complainant’s telephone calls and failing to explain the status of the bankruptcy proceeding to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the Complainant to make informed decisions regarding the representation. The Respondent failed to file an answer to the grievance complaint in violation of Rule 8.1(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book §2-32(a)(1). The record lacks clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent charged an unreasonable fee in violation of Rule 1.5(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Notwithstanding, since we conclude that the Respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Practice Book, and in consideration of the seriousness of the misconduct, we direct the Disciplinary Counsel to file a presentment against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever discipline the court deems appropriate.
Attorney Tracie Molinaro
Attorney David Channing
Mr. Malcolm Forbes