JAMES M. McCONNELL v. KATHLEEN McCONNELL et al., SC 19257

Judicial District of New London

 

†††† Writ of Error; Attorneys; Whether Trial Court, in Absence of a Subpoena, had Authority to Order Nonparty Attorneys to Appear and Give Evidence.† James McConnell, Amy Sheridan, and Kathleen McConnell Hewitt are the beneficiaries of a trust created by their father.† James brought the underlying action to challenge a Probate Court order approving a stipulation submitted by his sisters that provided that the sisters would receive significant disbursements from the trust.† He claimed that he had no notice of the Probate Court proceedings because Kathleen failed to name him as an interested party.† The plaintiffs in error, attorneys Lois Andrews and James Young, represented Kathleen in the probate proceedings.† The trial court issued an order directing the parties to show cause why the Probate Courtís order should not be vacated and the appeal sustained.† The court also suggested that the plaintiffs in error had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct in failing to inform the Probate Court that James was a beneficiary of the trust and that he was entitled to notice of the proceedings.† It ordered the plaintiffs in error, who were not Kathleenís counsel of record in the matter before it, to appear at the show cause hearing and bring their files for the probate matter.† Counsel for the plaintiffs in error subsequently appeared at the show cause hearing and informed the court that, because his clients had not been served with subpoenas, they would not appear for the hearing.† When, however, the court indicated that it was prepared to issue a capias, counsel informed the court that his clients would appear.† The plaintiffs in error then filed a motion asking the court to vacate its order requiring them to appear and issue a protective order precluding disclosure of attorney-client privileged information.† The court denied that motion and, ultimately, both attorneys appeared and testified concerning their involvement in the probate proceedings.† The plaintiffs in error then filed this writ of error, challenging the order compelling them to appear.† They claim that, in the absence of a subpoena compelling their attendance, the court had no authority to order them, as nonparty witnesses, to appear before it.† They ask that the order compelling them to appear be vacated and that the testimony and evidence obtained from them be expunged from the record.† The Superior Court responds that it has the inherent power to inquire into the conduct of attorneys and that, when conducting such an inquiry, it may order an attorney to appear without issuing a subpoena.†† †††