Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"A Disturbing Disregard For Or Ignorance Of The Facts"

The Connecticut Supreme Court denied a writ of error filed by an attorney sanctioned for violations in appeal matters.

we conclude that the Appellate Court did not abuse its discretion in suspending Miller from the practice of law before that court for a period of six months on the basis of her repeated failure to meet deadlines, to comply with the rules of practice, and for filing a frivolous appeal.

On the merits

Miller’s contention that rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct provides the exclusive list of misconduct for which an attorney may be sanctioned is patently frivolous. Nor is the present case, as Miller argues, the first in which an attorney has been sanctioned by a Connecticut court for failing to comply with the rules or orders of the court. Indeed, our case law is replete with examples of instances in which our courts have exercised their authority, whether inherent or pursuant to statute or the rules of practice, to sanction an attorney for such conduct...

In her brief to this court, Miller attempts to minimize the professional lapses that ultimately convinced the Appellate Court that it had no choice but to suspend her temporarily from practice before that court. She also argues that the record belies that court’s determination that she exhibited a persistent pattern of irresponsibility in the handling of her cases. Miller’s arguments reveal a disturbing disregard for or ignorance of the facts underlying this case.

More trouble ahead

Finally, Miller claims that the Appellate Court abused its discretion in referring her to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel without alleging the violation of any Rule of Professional Conduct or otherwise providing guidance as to the nature of the inquiry to be conducted. Miller also expresses concern that the referral could result in duplicative sanctions for the conduct described herein...

The Appellate Court not only has the authority to refer an attorney to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, it has an obligation to do so when, as in the present case, it concludes that that attorney’s persistent pattern of missing deadlines and violating court rules threatens the vital interests of his or her clients. Of course, we do not know whether the Chief Disciplinary Counsel will find instances of neglectful or otherwise unacceptable conduct by Miller in the Superior Court, but, in light of the number and nature of Miller’s transgressions in the Appellate Court, the Appellate Court certainly had the discretion to bring those transgressions to the attention of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for whatever action, if any, may be appropriate with respect to Miller’s conduct in the Superior Court.


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