STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Arnold L. Beizer, Complainant vs. Jefferson D. Jelly, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #95-0164
Pursuant to Practice Book '27J, the undersigned, duly- appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 1061 Main Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, on February 14, 1996 and on April 10, 1996. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on August 25, 1995, and the probable cause determination rendered by a reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee on November 17, 1995, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.8(e) and 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The reviewing committee's probable cause determination was contrary to the determination of no probable cause filed by the Hartford-New Britain Judicial District, Geographical Areas 12, 15, 16 and 17 Grievance Panel on October 6, 1995.
Notice of the February 14, 1996 hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on January 4, 1996. Notice of the April 10, 1996 hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on February 29, 1996. The Respondent appeared at both hearings, and was represented by Attorney Ralph Dupont at the February 14, 1996 hearing and by Attorney William R. Moller at the April 10, 1996 hearing. The Complainant also appeared on both hearing dates. This reviewing committee heard the testimony of both the Complainant and Respondent, as well as Judith Doucette, a witness.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
In or around June of 1991, the Respondent was representing Harold Langweil regarding a motor vehicle accident and a dissolution of marriage. In June of 1991, Langweil was involved in a second automobile accident, and the Respondent was retained to represent Langweil in that matter as well. Prior to receiving a settlement draft from an insurance company regarding the property damage incurred in the second accident, the Respondent gave Langweil six hundred dollars ($600.00) to purchase an automobile. Upon receipt of the insurance draft, the Respondent was reimbursed.
During the course of the above representation, on another occasion, the Respondent gave Langweil approximately fifty dollars ($50.00) in cash, after Langweil complained about being unable to make a child support payment. Langweil never reimbursed the Respondent for this payment. The Respondent also provided Langweil with the funds necessary to be examined by a physician, in connection with injuries he had sustained in one of the accidents.
This reviewing committee also considered the Complainant's allegations of misconduct on the part of the Respondent in connection with a release signed by a Joan Watkins, which release is dated September 20, 1990. The Complainant alleges that Judith Doucette, one of the witnesses to the release, did not actually witness Watkins' signature but signed as a witness at the Respondent's request after Watkins had signed the release outside of Doucette's presence. This reviewing committee, however, does not find clear and convincing evidence in the record as to misconduct on the Respondent's part in connection with the release.
This reviewing committee does find, however, clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent provided financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation, in violation of Rule 1.8(e) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent testified that he advanced to the amount of six hundred dollars to his client so his client could purchase an automobile while awaiting a settlement check for property damage relating to the accident. The Respondent also testified that he paid his client fifty dollars for child support payments. The Respondent also provided his client with funds for examination and treatment by a doctor, and while the Respondent originally testified that the funds were in the nature of a payment to an expert for preparation of a report, on cross-examination the Respondent indicated that he gave his client funds for delinquent child support and for a doctor's visit.
While sympathetic to the Respondent's concerns regarding his client, Rule 1.8(e) prohibits an attorney from providing the kind of financial assistance that was rendered in this matter. The exceptions to the Rule are not applicable in the instant matter. It is, therefore, the recommendation of this reviewing committee that the Respondent be reprimanded by the Statewide Grievance Committee.
Attorney Alfred R. Belinkie
Attorney Lewis A. Hurwitz
Mr. Neal Jewell