November 10, 2008
Getting Personal Leads To Reprimand
The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the reprimand of an attorney who had accused opposing counsel in a domestic relations matter of having an affair and fathering a child with the client that opposing counsel represented. Even if true, the allegations served no legitimate purpose:
Both motions contain allegations that the wife’s attorney in the dissolution action, who was married to another woman, and the wife were having an ‘‘illicit and extramarital relationship.’’ The plaintiff further alleged that a child had been illegitimately conceived from this relationship, which later led to marriage. The wife’s attorney served a request for a retraction on the plaintiff to alert him of inaccuracies in the motion, including the date he married his new wife, along with the birth date of the alleged illegitimate child. Additionally, the wife’s attorney filed two grievances against the plaintiff. After a hearing, a reviewing committee of the statewide grievance committee found the plaintiff to have violated rule 3.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and imposed a reprimand. The reviewing committee wrote in its decision that even though there was a basis for filing the motions, the inclusion of the allegations of a sexual affair and describing the couple’s child as illegitimate were unnecessary to the merits of the motions, and, due to the nature of the allegations, the committee inferred that the allegations were made only to embarrass, harass or maliciously injure those involved and were therefore frivolous. The plaintiff appealed to the Superior Court, which dismissed the appeal. The plaintiff then appealed to this court. The plaintiff, on his client’s behalf, filed postdissolution motions to disqualify the firm representing the wife and for a continuance.
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I am somewhat bothered by the Connecticut Appellate Court’s refusal to consider a claim because it was inadequately briefed. See note 2. I’m also troubled by the Appellate Court’s apparent reliance on the lower court to apply the “clearly erroneous” standard of review when the Appellate Court is charged with making that review itself. See the final paragraph. At the very least, the Appellate Court avoided any sort of discussion or statement of the reasons for its decision by generalised reference to the unpublished opinion of the lower court. That too is suspect. Perhaps I wouldn’t be quite so bothered by this if the Appellate Court wasn’t notorious for avoiding claims. Also note that this is a per curiam opinion. It is not the norm in Connecticut to issue written disciplinary opinions per curiam.
Posted by: FixedWing | Nov 10, 2008 11:13:01 AM