Monday, August 11, 2014
The Connecticut Appellate Court affirmed the findings of misconduct and suspension of five months imposed by the superior court, rejecting a host of contentions of the sanctioned attorney.
It all started in a jazz bar.
The attorney met a couple at the bar who were having marital problems. He and the couple began a social relationship which led to an intimate but non-sexual relationship with the wife.
In her home on several occasions, they held hands, shared wine, "with candles, music and lights dimmed... Their first kiss came on such an occasion on September 24, 2010."
In December 2010, the husband came home and found the two in the above-described "ambience" and was less than pleased.
The husband then moved to disqualify the attorney. The motion was granted.
The superior court held, and the court here agreed, that the attorney's advice to the wife in the divorce amounted to a concurrent conflict of interest and was prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The court here held that the "conduct prejudicial" rule was not void for vagueness and that the attorney's due process and association rights were not violated.
Further, the superior court properly exercised its discretion in imposing sanction.
The ABA Journal reported on the charges in December 2011
The Connecticut Law Tribune reported on Zelotes’ case earlier this month. The disciplinary panel said the evidence was insufficient that Zelotes’ relationship with the woman was sexual. (Zelotes had admitted that the relationship was “intimate” but denied it was sexual.) But the panel found nonetheless that the “burgeoning romantic and intimate relationship” materially limited the representation.
According to the disciplinary panel, Zelotes explained why he thought an intimate relationship with clients is not problematic. “When you are representing someone you have love and affection for, you’re going to work twice as hard and there’s no question about it. It is not a detriment to the relationship,” Zelotes reportedly said. “My advice to a woman going through a divorce is, find a competent trial lawyer and make him your boyfriend.”
Zelotes told the Norwich Tribune that the disciplinary panel report was “replete with errors” and he’s willing to take the issue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.