Grievance Defense FAQs
I have been defending lawyers accused of violating the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct for over 25 years. I have an excellent working relationship and reputation with all the people involved in the Attorney Discipline process, including the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, the Statewide Grievance Committee, and the Counsel for the various Local Panels. My former clients include some of the most prominent members of the Connecticut Bar (as no one is above being accused of violating the Rules of Professional Conduct). (I have also defended members of the Massachusetts Bar.)
I am a former Adjunct Instructor Professional Responsibility and Legal Ethics at the University of Connecticut School of Law. (And I am a current instructor of Trial Advocacy at UConn Law.) I am also an active member of the two Connecticut Bar Association committees that focus on this area of law: the Committee on Professional Ethics; and the Professional Discipline Committee. In 1998, I was an appointed member of the commission that was responsible for analyzing the rules of practice that apply to grievance defense proceedings and making recommendations for improvements in same. I am also a member of the American Bar Association's Section on Professional Ethics.
I own and manage my own law firm, so I also have a real world experience in what it takes to run an office engaged in the practice and business of law.
Other relevant qualifications and information:
Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer, as certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.
Martindale-Hubbel rating: A-V.
Education: J.D., University of Connecticut School of Law (1983); B.S., summa cum laude, Springfield College (1980).
Judicial Clerkship: Superior Court of Connecticut (1983-84).
Teaching Experience: (1) University of Connecticut School of Law, Former Adjunct Instructor of Professional Responsibility and Legal Ethics and Current Instructor of Trial Advocacy; (2) Attorney Gerry Spence's Trial Lawyers College, Staff Instructor, Civil and Criminal Trial Skills; (3) Connecticut Bar Association Trial Advocacy Institute, Staff Instructor, Trial Skills; (4) Guest Lecturer various Trial Practice classes at University of Connecticut School of Law.
Publications (relevant to Connecticut Grievance Defense): Ethical Considerations in Criminal Defense, National Business Institute, 1996; Taking the Criminal Case to Trial, National Business Institute, 1996; Grievance Defense: Should You Respond on the Merits at the Local Panel?, Connecticut Law Tribune, 1998; Protect Yourself Against Claims by Prospective Clients With Letters of Declination, Connecticut Law Tribune, 2000; Ethical, Legal, and Practical Considerations of Retainer Agreements, Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, 2001.
Seminar Lectures (relevant to Grievance Defense): Strategies in Defending DUI Cases, National Business Institute (1996); Criminal Defense Litigation in Connecticut, National Business Institute (1996); Legal Ethics and Advertising, Connecticut Bar Association (2001); Considerations of Ethics and Law for Criminal Defense Retainers, Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association (2001).
Memberships and Committees: Connecticut Bar Association: Committee on Professional Ethics, Professional Discipline Committee, Task Force on Grievance Procedures; Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association (President, 2001-02); Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association; Massachusetts Bar Association; Massachusetts Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys; American Bar Association: Criminal Justice, Law Practice Management, Litigation, Professional Responsibility, Tort and Insurance Practice; Association of Trial Lawyers of America; National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
If you have any questions, call me. I would be glad to discuss matters with you at no charge.
All financial arrangements and obligations would be set forth in a written retainer agreement signed by you and us. The information below is current as of January 2009. For the most current information, please call the office.
We currently charge $400 per hour for Attorney Murphy's time; and $200 per hour for associate attorney time. The minimum fee for completion of the representation is $5,000. Sometimes, depending on the facts or allegations, we might also ask that you deposit an additional retainer in our Trust Account to cover any time not covered by the minimum fee and/or to pay any file related expenses. Routine grievance defense matters are often handled for $5,000.
It depends on the facts and allegations against you. It also depends on how comfortable you are in defending yourself. Unfortunately, many lawyers make mistakes at this stage of the proceedings that can come back to haunt the lawyer or even suggest other potential violations of the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct.
We recommend that you at least call us to discuss the grievance against you so we can discuss whether you should retain a lawyer to defend you before the Local Grievance Panel. After all, your Connecticut law license and your reputation as a Connecticut lawyer are at risk. Besides there is no charge for this first call.
If you have been summoned to appear at a hearing before the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee (or a Reviewing Committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee) that means either the Local Panel or a Reviewing Committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee has already found probable cause to believe that you violated of the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct or that you violated some provision of Chapter Two of the Connecticut Practice Book. You now need someone to defend your Connecticut law license and your professional reputation as a lawyer.
The burden of proof at a hearing before the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee or a Reviewing Committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee is: clear and convincing evidence.
When your complaint is before the Local Grievance Panel, the issue is whether there is probable cause to believe the lawyer has violated one or more Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct. If the Panel finds probable cause, the grievance complaint would then be scheduled for a hearing before the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee.
If your explanation to the Local Grievance Panel is different from any explanation to the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee, the Committee might look at the second explanation with suspicion. In other words the Committee may ask, if this is your explanation now, why didn't you say this to the Panel?
On the other hand, if you know the Local Panel is going to find probable cause against you no matter what you say, then we typically recommend holding back some information in your response to the Panel so that the the Connecticut Disciplinary Counsel and the Statewide Grievance Committee do not have the advantage of knowing your entire defense before the hearing. Note that this a very technical and strategic approach and should be implemented only with the guidance and assistance of an experienced Connecticut Grievance Defense lawyer.
Connecticut has a "three strikes" rule regarding lawyers.
Pursuant to Connecticut Practice Book Section 2-47 (d) (1), any lawyer who is guilty of misconduct AND has been the subject of discipline three or more times in the five years before that current grievance complaint SHALL be presented to the Superior Court. A Judge of the Superior Court would then determine what punishment, if any, shall be imposed.
Example: assume a lawyer has three reprimands arising from three complaints filed between 1/1/2004 and 12/31/2008. If that lawyer gets grieved in 2009 and that complaint results in discipline, the lawyer SHALL be presented to the court for disposition.
Obviously, if you have already been the subject of discipline in the past, it is imperative that you vigorously defend yourself against any subsequent grievance complaints so that you don't face the potential problems of this "three strikes" rule.
Here is the full text of Section 2-47 (d) (1):
"If a determination is made by the statewide grievance committee or a reviewing committee that a respondent is guilty of misconduct and such misconduct does not otherwise warrant a presentment to the superior court, but the respondent has been disciplined pursuant to these rules by the statewide grievance committee, a reviewing committee or the court at least three times pursuant to complaints filed within the five year period preceding the date of the filing of the grievance complaint that gave rise to such finding of misconduct in the instant case, the statewide grievance committee or the reviewing committee shall direct the disciplinary counsel to file a presentment against the respondent in the superior court. Service of the matter shall be made as in civil actions. The statewide grievance committee or the reviewing committee shall file with the court the record in the matter and a copy of the prior discipline issued against the respondent within such five year period. The sole issue to be determined by the court upon the presentment shall be the appropriate action to take as a result of the nature of the misconduct in the instant case and the cumulative discipline issued concerning the respondent within such five year period. Such action shall be in the form of a judgment dismissing the complaint or imposing discipline as follows: reprimand, suspension for a period of time, disbarment or such other discipline as the court deems appropriate. This may include conditions to be fulfilled by the respondent before he or she may apply for readmission or reinstatement. This subsection shall apply to all findings of misconduct issued from the day of enactment forward and the determination of presentment shall consider all discipline pursuant to complaints filed within the five year period preceding the date of the filing of the grievance complaint that gave rise to the finding of misconduct even if they predate the effective date of these rules."
If you have any questions or concerns about how this rule might affect your Connecticut law license, please contact an experience Connecticut Grievance Defense Lawyer. Call Atty. Ron Murphy at 860-678-1900 for a free initial consultation.