STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Preston Tallman, Patricia Tallman, Complainants vs. Robert Recio, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #95-0677
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 November 13, 1996. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on February 22, 1996 and the probable cause determination filed by the Danbury Judicial District Grievance Panel on May 15, 1996, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3, 1.4(a) and (b), and 1.15(a), (b) and (c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainants and to the Respondent on October 2, 1996. The Complainants appeared and were heard by this reviewing committee. The Respondent did not appear. Exhibits were admitted into evidence.
This reviewing committee makes the following findings of fact by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainants retained the Respondent in 1993 to file a bankruptcy on their behalf. The Complainants paid the Respondent $3,400.00 to pay creditors and to address their bankruptcy. The Respondent did not file for relief under the bankruptcy laws for the Complainants. The Respondent did not respond to the Complainant's requests for the return of their file as relayed to the Respondent by them and by their new attorney, Attorney Jeffrey B. Trattner. The Respondent did not answer the complaint.
At the hearing before this reviewing committee, the Complainants testified that they were $28,000.00 in debt when they sought the Respondent's legal counsel. They testified that they paid the Respondent $3,400.00 in 1993 to settle their claims. However, their creditors are still pursuing them for the balance of their unpaid debts. The Complainants further testified that the Respondent was paid $1,000.00 to bring an action for them regarding their deck but he never brought the action. The Complainants testified that they requested their complete files be returned to them from the Respondent but they only received a few papers. The Complainants testified that they subsequently retained new counsel and paid an additional retainer to new counsel.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence:
The Respondent did not act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the Complainants in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent was hired by the Complainants to provide them with legal assistance in their financial difficulties. The Respondent did not file a bankruptcy on behalf of the Complainants. Neither did the Respondent finalize any compromise of the Complainants' debts with the Complainants' creditors. The Respondent also did not file a civil action regarding the Complainants' deck as he had been retained to do.
This reviewing committee finds by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent did not keep the Complainants reasonably informed about the status of their legal matters. Nor did the Respondent promptly comply with the Complainants' reasonable requests for information. Neither did the Respondent explain the Complainants' legal matters to the Complainants to the extent reasonably necessary to permit them to make informed decisions regarding their representation. The Complainants understood that their financial difficulties would be resolved upon payment of the $3,400.00 to the Respondent. However, they are still being pursued by their creditors.
This reviewing committee further finds by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated Rules 1.15(a), (b) and (c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent did not respond to requests from the Complainants for the return of the Complainants' file. Neither did the Respondent respond to requests from the Complainants' new attorney for the return of the Complainants' file. Of the $3,400.00 provided to the Respondent from the Complainants to settle their financial difficulties, only $1,487.00 has been paid to the Complainants' creditors. The Respondent has not refunded any excess to the Complainants. For all the foregoing reasons, this reviewing committee recommends that the Statewide Grievance Committee reprimand the Respondent.
Attorney Alfred Belinkie
Attorney Salvatore DePiano