Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, No. 13557

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore PETERS; PETERS
Citation558 A.2d 986,211 Conn. 232
PartiesSTATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE v. Zbigniew ROZBICKI.
Decision Date23 May 1989
Docket NumberNo. 13557

Page 986

558 A.2d 986
211 Conn. 232
STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE

v.
Zbigniew ROZBICKI.
No. 13557.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued March 7, 1989.
Decided May 23, 1989.

[211 Conn. 233] Seymour N. Weinstein, Stamford, for appellant-appellee (plaintiff).

Francis J. MacGregor, Hartford, for appellee-appellant (defendant).

Before PETERS, C.J., and SHEA, CALLAHAN, GLASS and COVELLO, JJ.

PETERS, Chief Justice.

This appeal concerns the relationship between the judicial department's supervisory responsibility for the conduct of attorneys and the provisions of General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) § 51-90g(c), 1 which [211 Conn. 234]

Page 987

imposed time constraints upon the adjudicatory processes of the Statewide Grievance Committee (grievance committee) with respect to complaints of attorney misconduct. The grievance committee brought a presentment against the defendant Zbigniew Rozbicki charging him with misconduct as an attorney outside the presence of the court. The trial court, Moraghan, J., granted the defendant's motion to dismiss the presentment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The grievance committee appealed to the Appellate Court and the defendant cross appealed. We transferred the appeal to ourselves pursuant to Practice Book § 4023. We find error.

The grievance proceedings against the defendant began with a complaint filed on January 15, 1987, by the complainant, Helen Huybrechts. On February 10, 1987, the grievance committee filed its own complaint charging the defendant with misconduct as an attorney outside the presence of the court. The local grievance panel, the Litchfield Grievance Panel (panel), considered the complaints and determined that probable cause existed that the defendant had violated the [211 Conn. 235] Code of Professional Responsibility. The panel filed its determination of probable cause with the grievance committee on May 1, 1987. The grievance committee appointed a subcommittee to review the complaint, as permitted by General Statutes § 51-90g(a). 2 Although § 51-90g(c) required the subcommittee to conclude any hearings and render its proposed decision on the complaint within ninety days of the date that the panel filed its determination of probable cause, no action was taken within ninety days. On August 5 and 6, 1987, the reviewing subcommittee held a hearing. The grievance committee, on August 20, 1987, granted the reviewing subcommittee a sixty day extension to render its proposed decision. The defendant requested an extension to file a post-hearing brief and filed the brief on August 27, 1987. On October 13, 1987, the reviewing subcommittee rendered its proposed decision, dated September 28, 1987. Then, on November 2, 1987, the grievance committee granted the reviewing subcommittee an additional ninety day extension. 3

[211 Conn. 236]

Page 988

On November 19, 1987, the grievance committee determined that the defendant had violated the Code of Professional Responsibility and directed that a presentment be filed against him in Superior Court. The grievance committee accordingly filed a presentment, dated April 28, 1988, in Superior Court, alleging that the defendant was guilty of "misconduct not occurring in the actual presence of the court, involving his character, integrity and professional standing and conduct" in that he had violated sections DR 1-102(A)(4), DR 1-102(A)(5), DR 1-102(A)(6), DR 5-104 and DR 7-101(A)(3) 4 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The presentment charged him with "receiving real property in satisfaction of a legal fee from a client not represented by independent counsel ... failing to expeditiously attempt to reinstate [211 Conn. 237] the Complainant's mortgage in order to negotiate a release of that portion of the property the Complainant had conveyed to [him] ... [and] determining all of the details of his purchase of the Complainant's home and arranging for her to be represented by counsel to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest...."

The defendant filed motions to dismiss the presentment for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, to strike counts one and three of the presentment and to dismiss count two. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss the presentment and denied the other motions.

In this appeal, the grievance committee contends that the trial court erred in dismissing the presentment. The defendant, on cross appeal, claims error in the trial court's failure to grant his motions to dismiss and to strike portions of the presentment.

I

In its appeal, the grievance committee asserts that the trial court should not have dismissed the presentment. It contends that the trial court erred in concluding that the grievance committee had failed to comply with § 51-90g(c) and that such a failure deprived the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction.

It is important, at the outset, to emphasize that the rules regulating attorney grievance procedures exist within the broader framework of the relationship between attorneys and the judiciary. " 'The practice of law is ... a profession the main purpose of which is to aid in the doing of justice....' " In re Application of Griffiths, 162 Conn. 249, 254-55, 294 A.2d 281 (1972), rev'd and remanded, 413 U.S. 717, 93 S.Ct. 2851, 37 L.Ed.2d 910 (1973), quoting Rosenthal v. State Bar Examining Committee, 116 Conn. 409, 414, 165 A. 211 (1933). An attorney "as an officer of the court in the administration of justice, is continually [211 Conn. 238] accountable to it for the manner in which he exercises the privilege which has been accorded him." In re Peck, 88 Conn. 447, 450, 91 A. 274 (1914). This

Page 989

"unique position as officers and commissioners of the court ... casts attorneys in a special relationship with the judiciary and subjects them to its discipline." (Citations omitted.) Heslin v. Connecticut Law Clinic of Trantolo & Trantolo, 190 Conn. 510, 524, 461 A.2d 938 (1983). Because of this special relationship, "[w]e have a continuing duty 'to make it entirely clear that the standards of conduct ... of the members of the profession of the law in Connecticut have not changed, and that those standards will be applied under our rules of law, in the exercise of a reasonable discretion....' Grievance Committee v. Broder, [112 Conn. 263, 278, 152 A. 292 (1930) ]." In re Application of Pagano, 207 Conn. 336, 344-45, 541 A.2d 104 (1988). This court will neither neglect nor attempt to avoid that responsibility.

Our review of the language of § 51-90g(c) is, therefore, informed by the judiciary's responsibility for governing attorney conduct. "Disciplinary proceedings are for the purpose of preserving the courts 'from the official ministration of persons unfit to practise in them.' Ex Parte Wall, 107 U.S. 265, 288, 2 S.Ct. 569, 27 L.Ed. 552 (1883); Heiberger v. Clark, [148 Conn. 177, 183, 169 A.2d 652 (1961) ]; Grievance Committee v. Broder, [supra, 112 Conn. at 265, 152 A. 292]; In re Peck, [supra, 88 Conn. at 452, 91 A. 274]...." Heslin v. Connecticut Law Clinic of Trantolo & Trantolo, supra, 190 Conn. at 524, 461 A.2d 938. " ' "The proceeding to disbar [or suspend] an attorney is neither a civil action nor a criminal proceeding, but is a proceeding sui generis, the object of which is not the punishment of the offender, but the protection of the court." In re Bowman, 7 Mo.App. 569 [1879].' " In re Application of Pagano, supra, 207 Conn. at 339, 541 A.2d 104; In re Peck, supra. Once the complaint is made, "the court controls the situation and procedure, in its discretion,[211 Conn. 239] as the interests of justice may seem to it to require." In re Peck, supra. "[T]he power of the courts is left unfettered to act as situations, as they may arise, may seem to require, for efficient discipline of misconduct and the purging of the bar from the taint of unfit membership. Such statutes as ours are not restrictive of the inherent powers which reside in courts to inquire into the conduct of their own officers, and to discipline them for misconduct." In re Peck, supra, 88 Conn. at 457, 91 A. 274. In proceedings such as those at issue, therefore, the attorney's "relations to the tribunal and the character and purpose of the inquiry are such that unless it clearly appears that his rights have in some substantial way been denied him, the action of the court will not be set aside upon review." Grievance Committee v. Sinn, 128 Conn. 419, 422, 23 A.2d 516 (1941); see also In re Durant, 80 Conn. 140, 150, 67 A. 497 (1907). Consequently, ministerial delays do not ordinarily warrant judicial abstention from dealing with the important issues raised by allegations of attorney misconduct.

The regulation of attorney conduct is, therefore, within the court's inherent authority. Section 51-90g and the parallel Practice Book rules authorized the grievance committee to act as an arm of the court in fulfilling this responsibility. Requiring the grievance committee to dismiss a complaint whenever the review subcommittee has failed to act in a timely manner, with no discretion to pursue another course of action if appropriate, would frustrate the purposes of attorney grievance procedures and run counter to the special supervisory role of the courts in regulating attorney conduct. We will, therefore, require such action only if specifically so directed by § 51-90g(c). In examining this statute, we note three questions. Are its time requirements mandatory? Were the statutory mandates violated in this case? What is the effect of such a violation on the jurisdiction of the Superior Court?

[211 Conn. 240] A

Our examination of General Statutes (Rev. to 1987) § 51-90g(c) convinces us that its provisions are mandatory. Section 51-90g(c) plainly stated that "[t]he subcommittee shall ... render its...

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86 practice notes
  • Iovieno v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 15411
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 26, 1997
    ...Conn. 296, 302, 541 A.2d 488 (1988); Grodis v. Burns, 190 Conn. 39, 44, 459 A.2d 994 (1983).' Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 241, 558 A.2d 986 (1989). With these principles in mind, we again note that under § 52-470(a), the habeas court is provided with considerab......
  • State v. Metz, No. 14909
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 2, 1994
    ..."shall," which ordinarily express legislative mandates of a nondirectory nature. See Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 240, 558 A.2d 986 (1989); Lo Sacco v. Young, 210 Conn. 503, 507, 555 A.2d 986 (1989); Caulkins v. Petrillo, 200 Conn. 713, 717, 513 A.2d 4......
  • Fennelly v. Norton, No. 27132.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 7, 2007
    ...acted upon by the court.' Gurliacci v. Mayer, 218 Conn. 531, 545, 590 A.2d 914 (1991); Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 245, 558 A.2d 986 (1989); Cahill v. Board of Education, 198 Conn. 229, 238, 502 A.2d 410 (1985)." (Emphasis added.) Federal Deposit Ins. Corp......
  • Williams v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, (SC 16249)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 7, 2001
    ...which would preclude any extension of time even by express waiver or consent"); Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 241-42, 558 A.2d 986 (1989), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1094, 112 S. Ct. 1170, 117 L. Ed. 2d 416 (1992) ("[t]here is no dispute that the subcommitt......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
86 cases
  • Iovieno v. Commissioner of Correction, No. 15411
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 26, 1997
    ...Conn. 296, 302, 541 A.2d 488 (1988); Grodis v. Burns, 190 Conn. 39, 44, 459 A.2d 994 (1983).' Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 241, 558 A.2d 986 (1989). With these principles in mind, we again note that under § 52-470(a), the habeas court is provided with considerab......
  • State v. Metz, No. 14909
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 2, 1994
    ..."must" or "shall," which ordinarily express legislative mandates of a nondirectory nature. See Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 240, 558 A.2d 986 (1989); Lo Sacco v. Young, 210 Conn. 503, 507, 555 A.2d 986 (1989); Caulkins v. Petrillo, 200 Conn. 713, 717, 513 A.2d 4......
  • Fennelly v. Norton, No. 27132.
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • August 7, 2007
    ...acted upon by the court.' Gurliacci v. Mayer, 218 Conn. 531, 545, 590 A.2d 914 (1991); Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 245, 558 A.2d 986 (1989); Cahill v. Board of Education, 198 Conn. 229, 238, 502 A.2d 410 (1985)." (Emphasis added.) Federal Deposit Ins. Corp. v. ......
  • Williams v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, (SC 16249)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 7, 2001
    ...which would preclude any extension of time even by express waiver or consent"); Statewide Grievance Committee v. Rozbicki, 211 Conn. 232, 241-42, 558 A.2d 986 (1989), cert. denied, 502 U.S. 1094, 112 S. Ct. 1170, 117 L. Ed. 2d 416 (1992) ("[t]here is no dispute that the subcommittee failed ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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