In re Durant

Citation67 A. 497,80 Conn. 140
CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Decision Date30 July 1907
PartiesIn re DURANT.

Appeal from Superior Court, New Haven County; Milton A. Shumway, Judge.

Complaint by a committee of the New Haven county bar againt Harold R. Durant, an attorney, asking for his disbarment From an order of permanent disbarment, respondent appeals. No error.

The respondent, Harold R. Durant, was an attorney at law having his office in Waterbury. A Mrs. Lathrop, who was a family friend, claimed that her husband, then being a man of property and a considerable income, had left her in poor health and without means of support; and she applied to the respondent for professional advice and assistance in compelling her husband to provide her suitable support. Judge Burpee, under whom the respondent then held an appointment as prosecuting attorney of the city court of Waterbury, was the attorney for Mr. Lathrop. The respondent told Mrs. Lathrop that by reason of this relation and an understanding he had with Judge Burpee he could not act openly or in court as her attorney. He, however, consented to advise with and act for her as her attorney in the matter, not appearing openly or in court in that capacity. By his advice other counsel was employed, who thereupon instituted civil proceedings for Mrs. Lathrop against her husband to secure the desired support. From the outset Mrs. Lathrop informed the respondent and her other attorney that she was opposed to a divorce on principle and did not desire under any circumstances to procure one from her husband. In the course of the early consultations with Mrs. Lathrop, the respondent informed her that her husband had been unfaithful to her and that he was sustaining illicit relations with other women. Mrs. Lathrop resented this charge against her husband and informed the respondent that she did not believe it. He thereupon, by his representations, induced her to believe that, if sufficient money could be procured to employ a detective, evidence of her husband's infidelity could be readily obtained, and that when her husband found that such evidence had been procured he could be readily induced to make an advantageous settlement with her without further proceedings in court; and, acting under the respondent's advice, Mrs. Lathrop procured a friend to advance to her $500, which she delivered to the respondent for the purpose aforesaid. The respondent thereupon procured from New York one Murphy to act as a detective for the procuring of evidence against Mr. Lathrop as stated. Murphy spent several weeks under the immediate direction of the respondent in an endeavor to obtain evidence of improper conduct on the part of Lathrop, hut without success. Following this failure, of which the respondent was fully advised, the respondent proposed to Murphy and one Mrs. Delkescamp, a married woman of Waterbury, that the latter should solicit and entice Lathrop to criminal intercourse with her at such time and place and under such circumstances as would enable Murphy to be a witness of the act. This proposition was agreed to by them, and Mrs. Delkescamp began to exert her wiles upon Lathrop in co-operation with Murphy and under the direction of the respondent. The scheme was barren of desired results. Afterward, and with knowledge of the failure of Mrs. Delkescamp's efforts, the respondent proposed to her and Murphy that as a personal favor to him they should state to or in the presence of Mrs. Lathrop that her husband had been criminally intimate with Mrs. Delkescamp, and this they consented to do. Soon afterward the respondent arranged an interview with Mrs. Lathrop, in his office, and at that interview and in his presence both Mrs. Delkescamp and Murphy made statements to Mrs. Lathrop that were intended to lead her to believe, and did in fact lead her to believe, that her husband and Mrs. Delkescamp had had criminal relations; and again later he induced Murphy and Mrs. Delkescamp to repeat in his presence the substance of the same statements to Mrs. Lathrop and her other attorney, who was then conducting her action for support. These statements were procured by the respondent to be made to Mrs. Lathrop in order to induce her to believe them and to act thereon as true. Subsequently Mrs. Delkescamp informed the respondent that she would not repeat her said statement in court or elsewhere.

Later the relations between the respondent and both Murphy and the Delkescamp woman became strained, and information came to the defendant's counsel in the Lathrop case, which was still pending, of what had been done; said information coming indirectly from Murphy and directly from Mrs. Delkescamp, who sought him out and told her story. Shortly thereafter, pursuant to a notice to take depositions, that of Murphy was in part taken in New York City; Mr. Rogers being present as attorney to represent Mrs. Lathrop. The direct examination was concluded and the cross-examination begun, when at the close of the first day an adjournment for six days was taken. At this time counsel for both sides were present, but the witness failed to appear. A further adjournment was taken, with the stipulation that the taking of the deposition should be continued as soon as the witness could be produced. The absence of Murphy was caused by the conduct of the respondent, as hereinafter recited. A few days later Mr. Lathrop's counsel received assurances that he would appear to complete his deposition. Notice was accordingly given to Mrs. Lathrop's counsel to be present at a time named. At that time Murphy appeared, but was induced by those acting in behalf of Mrs. Lathrop and the respondent to go away, which he did. Subsequently he appeared before the magistrate, read the transcript of his deposition as given on said first day, and subscribed and made oath to it. Immediately after the conclusion of the testimony of Murphy on the first day, Mr. Rogers returned to Waterbury and informed the respondent of the nature and substance of Murphy's testimony, whereupon the respondent went to New York and procured detectives and a policeman of the New York police department to accompany him, and they called upon Murphy at his home, at 1 o'clock in the morning, finding him in bed, ill. The respondent and the detectives, with language calculated to intimidate, then upbraided Murphy for having testified as he had in his deposition, and endeavored by intimidation to induce him to retract his testimony, so far as it related to the respondent. On the following day the respondent, accompanied by police officers, again visited Murphy, and again endeavored by intimidation to induce him to retract his testimony, either by appearing and testifying on further cross-examination in opposition to his former testimony, or by signing a statement to the effect that his testimony was untrue, but were unsuccessful. By reason of the conduct of the respondent and his friends in New York, Murphy soon thereafter removed to Jersey City, and for the like reason failed to appear before the notary pursuant to the adjournment. Soon after Murphy's deposition was signed and sworn to as aforesaid it was returned to the assistant clerk of the superior court at Waterbury; and from that time forward, through detectives, policemen, and other personal representatives, the respondent endeavored to induce Murphy, by intimidation and bribery, to retract and contradict his testimony given in said deposition. Such efforts were continued down to a period subsequent to the filing of the complaint of the grievance committed in this case.

After the filing of the Murphy deposition, Judge Burpee wrote the respondent, advising him that if Murphy's statements therein relating to the respondent's conduct should be corroborated, or not pretty thoroughly contradicted, during the trial, he should feel it his duty to lay the matter before the grievance committee of the bar as soon as the case should be finished. The Lathrop Case was referred to John P. Kellogg, Esq., as a committee to hear the evidence and report the facts. This hearing consumed several days. Prior to the reference John O'Neill succeeded the former counsel of record for Mrs. Lathrop. Prior to the hearing before the committee the respondent was well aware of the character of the Murphy deposition, its bearing upon his own conduct, that the Delkescamp woman was expected to testify for the defendant, and the nature of the evidence which she was likely to give. He was in consultation with Mr. O'Neill in respect to that evidence in its relation to him and his interests and the proper course for him to pursue when she should testify. He also visited Mr. Kellogg, and, informing him that he (the respondent) anticipated that evidence would be given which reflected upon him, asked if he might be permitted to be present. Mr. Kellogg advised him that he (Mr. Kellogg) would have no objection to his being present and being heard. Mrs. Delkescamp's testimony occupied parts of three days. Her statements related to her employment by the respondent, her action thereunder, the respondent's knowledge thereof and participation therein, her subsequent false accusations to Mrs. Lathrop and the latter's counsel of record, and the respondent's procurement thereof and participation therein, in substance as hereinbefore recited. She was exhaustively cross-examined upon all these matters by Mr. O'Neill, the plaintiff's counsel, to whom the respondent had intrusted his interests. The respondent was personally present during her direct examination and some portion of the cross-examination, and had ample opportunity to examine the witness as he desired.

The court reached the following conclusions upon the evidence: "That the respondent was acting as the attorney for Mrs. Lathrop in her effort to compel her husband to support her; that he entered into a conspiracy with Mrs. Delkescamp and Murphy to engage Mr. Lathrop in adultery with Mrs. Delkescamp; that...

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