December 28, 2010
Second Disbarment For Letter Written In 1995
The Connecticut Supreme Court Court affirmed a second order of disbarment against an attorney which requires the attorney to wait five years from the judgment before seeking reinstatement. The case involved a letter written by the attorney in December 1995 that accused three Superior Court judges of misconduct.
A presentment of the charges was filed in December 2003. The attorney's motion to dismiss was granted in light of the November 2001 disbarment for unrelated misconduct. The dismissal was reversed by the Appellate Division, with a dissent.
The court rejected an array of claims including a contention that the charges exposed the attorney to double jeopardy. The court further rejected claims that the contentions in the letter at issue were true, submitted in good faith and protected free speech:
In the present case, the trial court determined that ‘‘the defendant failed to present any credible testimony to substantiate the allegations containedin the letter.’’ We conclude that the trial court’s conclusion is supported by the record. A review ofthe record in this case indicates that no evidence was proffered to prove that the defendant had an objective basis for her statements. The only evidence the defendant presented was her personal opinion as it related to a series of various court experiences. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court’s finding that the defendant’s comments were either false, or made with reckless disregard to their truth or falseness, was not clearly erroneous.
As I read the decision (and I may be wrong), it appears that the effect of this decision is to extend the eligibility date for a reinstatement petition. (Mike Frisch)
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Susan Burton is the Connecticut judiciary’s Mikhail Khodorkovsky. This is a classic example of piling it on so as to assure that she will never be able to practice again before the Connecticut courts.
Interestingly, in overturning the Superior Court’s determination that it lacked jurisdiction over someone that was no longer a member of the bar, the Supreme Court justified their action based on the need to adjudicate the matter just in case she were to one day seek to be readmitted. But by your reading of the punishment, which I think is correct, has actually served to extend her term of disbarment beyond what had originally been ordered.
Ms. Burton has done a better job of pursuing her environmental cases than she has in defending herself in disciplinary proceedings. For example, her petition for certiorari in her earlier disbarment case was only a few pages long and didn’t even attempt to seriously raise any federal issues – this despite the state Supreme Court case being considered en banc and becoming the pre-eminent disciplinary case in Connecticut (authored by then-Chief Justice Sullivan who was subsequently disciplined himself for engaging in cronyism).
I think it is most interesting that the state Supreme Court saw fit to transfer this appeal from the Appellate Court even though it is not in any way a significant case. Contrast this with my own case in which I make significantly more damning accusations against the Connecticut judiciary than ever did Ms. Burton, yet neither the Appellate Court nor Supreme Court were willing to hear my own case on the merits. Apparently, one only gets a hearing in Connecticut if one’s accusations are baseless.
The only other point I would make is that I believe that the state Supreme Court in Notopoulos never did actually consider the first amendment issue. Then-Chief Justice Sullivan authored this opinion also. To date, the Connecticut courts have managed to avoid considering this issue as regards attorneys.
Posted by: FixedWing | Dec 28, 2010 11:47:14 PM