For Protective Parents. Your source for news and information on the broken Family Court System in Connecticut. I am NOT an attorney. This blog does not constitute legal advice. Blog spirit: In the words of Emiliano Zapata,"I would rather die standing than live on my knees!"
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In a prior blog, I spoke about Attorney James T. Flaherty's legal abuse of his own clients. He has a pattern of taking on cases where individuals are in considerable distress. He then concocts major bills in the case, often double billing by working in tandem with his associates Attorney Sandi Girolamo and Attorney Pam Magnano. Then because he often has little idea of what he is doing, Attorney Flaherty will wreck the case and leave his clients on the lurch.
Some believe that Attorney James T. Flaherty simply doesn't know how to practice the law. I actually believe that Attorney Flaherty blows off his cases in order to discredit his clients so that they are unable to retrieve their losses either through a complaint to Statewide Grievance or through Civil Court.
Often, as their cases approach trial, either the day before or the morning of the trial, Attorney Flaherty will approach his clients and demand an immediate large payment. When it came to me, Attorney Flaherty asked for an immediate $30,000 or else. Then using one pretext or another, Attorney James T. Flaherty will withdraw from the case and then sue for payment of his inflated bills in civil court and then foreclose on your house.
Attorney Flaherty has had several of these collection cases which he usually finds a way to settle. However, the recent malpractice case of Mr. Jeffrey Nappo versus Attorney James T. Flaherty is apparently evading the usual script. The case, which was originally filed on September 26, 2011, is still underway over four years later. There will be a hearing in the case on April 22, 2015 and then a trial management hearing on June 9, 2015. Of course, these have been scheduled before and have not been followed through on. So what is going on with this case?
Early in 2009, Jeff Nappo's mother had a post judgment matter in family court that simply needed to be resolved having to do with the release of a bond. Jeff Nappo wasn't even a party to the case--he was just helping out his mother. Mr. Nappo spoke to two well respected law firms before approaching Jim Flaherty, both of whom stated that they could handle the matter for approximately $2,500.00.
When Jeff Nappo spoke to Attorney Flaherty, Flaherty stated that he would expect to receive a $10,000.00 retainer, but he anticipated that he wouldn't even come close to that amount in resolving the legal issue. Fast forward, Jeff Nappo received a walloping bill because Attorney Flaherty had carried out his usual trick of adding Attorney Sandi Girolamo to the case and was essentially double billing by having her present during hearings and depositions. Later on, Jeff Nappo received a bill for November and December of that year which was an exact duplicate of earlier bills that he had received except there were different dates and a higher balance. When Jeff confronted the accountant about these bills, reportedly she stated, "You're right. We just make bills up for Jim."
Eventually, Jeff's mother's case went to a hearing and during a break in the hearing, Attorney Flaherty went up to Jeff Nappo and demanded another $10,000.00 or he stated he was going to walk out of the case and Mr. Nappo reluctantly provided him with ten checks for $1000.00 each. After that, he didn't hear from Flaherty for another ten months.
Ultimately, Attorney Flaherty went to court demanding that Mr. Jeff Nappo pay him additional money in legal fees and Mr. Nappo responded with several counterclaims including excessive billing, failing to complete the work within the agreed upon limits of expense as set forth between the parties, failing to file necessary and required paperwork as part of the representation, failing to communicate, and submitting bills with false charges on them as well as additional violations of the CUTPA (Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act).
Of course, as I have said, this was well over four years ago. So what is going on? Why didn't this matter go to trial long ago like all other trials?
I recall that when I brought my own malpractice case against Attorney James T. Flaherty for very similar practices, although I will add outright lying to the trial court to my list of complaints, it really did not last very long. There was a year long period consisting mostly of discovery and some pretty ineffective pretrial hearings. Finally, we ended up in court before Judge Domnarski who pretty much said, we are going to trial and I am giving it two days and that's it.
You will forgive me for being somewhat cynical, but I can't help thinking that this extraordinary situation where the case does not go to trial and there are ongoing continuances is an attempt by the Trial Court to simply avoid trial.
Bottom line is they want Jeff Nappo to settle the way all the cases prior to Jeff have settled.
For over a decade, Attorney James T. Flaherty has used the Hartford Civil Court as his own personal enforcement agency to wrest vast sums of money out of his former clients. What networks of interdependence and mutual support Attorney Flaherty developed during these years to be able to wield such influence, who is to know. But the evidence of the impropriety of the Civil Court in this area stands right before us in the ongoing Nappo case and in the records of the other 69 or so cases with very similar outcomes that Attorney James T. Flaherty initiated against his own clients.
No other attorney comes near such an extraordinary record of pursuing his own clients in this manner.
The Nappo case is an embarrassment to the Trial Court because it threatens to put on the record the fact that the Connecticut Judicial Branch has been allowing an attorney to conduct raiding campaigns against his own clients for years. They would like to sweep this matter under the rug. For years, Attorney James T. Flaherty has been the teflon attorney--no grievance to Statewide Grievance has been able to stick. He has evaded any kind of accountability for his cases in family court, walking out of these cases at will, even when he is right in the middle of trial. Nothing phases him, no disciplinary committee stops him, and judges will stick their necks out for him seemingly without hesitation, i.e. Judge Jorge Simon who praised his work in open court and Judge Solomon who found his work to be exemplary in a letter to the disciplinary committee.
The problem, however, with trying to handle the Flaherty/Nappo matter with another coverup is that after the case is resolved, Attorney James T. Flaherty has every intention of coming back to Court with two more of his recently acquired victims. Jim Flaherty has an addiction to money and such a gross disregard for how he obtains it that if the Court system doesn't do something to stop him, Flaherty's feeding frenzy will never end. It is time for the trial court to refuse any further settlements with Attorney James T. Flaherty and to insist that the Nappo matter goes to trial right away. Not only that, it also needs to make sure that the trial is fair, not the trumped up piece of nonsense that other litigants have been stuck with up to this point.
In the Fall of 2012, Elizabeth A. Richter filed a Federal ADA Complaint with the Connecticut District Court stating that she had been repeatedly denied accommodations for her disability and faced disability based discrimination during her divorce case which took place in Hartford Superior Court and the State's Appellate Court from 2006 until 2012. Ms. Richter's Federal Complaint was dismissed in March 2014 and has now been appealed to the Second Circuit Court in New York City.
Elizabeth Richter's original Federal Complaint was filed against the following Defendants: The Connecticut Judicial Branch, an attorney firm O'Connell, Attmore & Morris, LLC, and also an individual judge, Herbert Barall, the same judge who presided over the Linda Wiegand case.
Ms. Richter brought the action in Federal Court to obtain redress for these Defendants' violations of Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and as Amended in 2008. The Americans With Disabilities Act is a civil rights law which is intended to enfranchise the many millions of Americans who have disabilities throughout the United States. Further, Ms. Richter also brought the action based upon Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, an early version of the ADA, and also based upon the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States constitution.
As a result of the violations of due process and her right of access to state court legal proceedings, the Plaintiff, Elizabeth A. Richter requested that the Federal District court provide her with declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorney's fees. She also requested the reversal of her state court judgments as well as monetary compensation for the intentional infliction of emotional distress which she endured as a result of the Defendants' actions.
Elizabeth Richter's struggles with discrimination began over 30 years ago when Ms. Richter was misdiagnosed as having a severe mental illness she did not have and locked up in a psychiatric facility for a little more than two years. Ms. Richter spoke of this incident before the Task Force on the Care and Custody of Minor Children which took place last year. See the link below:
Despite the fact that this hospitalization was mistake, throughout her divorce the opposing side in the case repeatedly brought the subject up as the basis for denying Elizabeth Richter custody. The opposing attorney in her case also repeatedly attempted to have Ms. Richter declared incompetent and to have a Guardian Ad Litem appointed to make decisions on behalf of Ms. Richter.
Elizabeth Richter also brought up the fact that she experiences so much discrimination and stigma as a result of that incident that, over the years, she has had to have counseling for the stress and anxiety it has caused her.
Despite this extensive history which qualified the Plaintiff for protections under Title II of the ADA, the Superior Court at Hartford where Ms. Richter's case was adjudicated, refused to acknowledge that she was a qualified individual under the ADA and refused to provide her with any reasonable modifications during the entire six years that her case was going through the Court.
Elizabeth Richter also pointed out in her Complaint that the Connecticut Judicial Branch subjected her to a systemic pattern of discrimination and the denial of her ADA rights such that she was unable to obtain testamentary and participatory access to justice throughout her divorce. Most particularly, the Connecticut Judicial Branch hid documents Elizabeth Richter had provided to the Court which showed evidence of her disability and explained what accommodations were necessary for her.
Furthermore, Ms. Richter reported that she experienced discrimination from her own attorneys who failed to provide her with adequate representation and made statements regarding her which were intended to incite a bigoted response from the Court. In particular, her attorney, Attorney James T. Flaherty, who was named in the lawsuit, failed to inform her of her rights under Title III of the ADA, failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations so that she could access the attorney firm's legal services, and also discriminated against her based upon her disability, and also based upon the firm's false perceptions of the disability they thought she had. The attorney firm also refused to protect her from discrimination based upon the false perceptions that arose from the misdiagnosis she received over 30 years ago.
During her post-judgment matters in her divorce, Elizabeth Richter complained that Judge Herbert Barall refused to provide her with reasonable accommodations, discriminated against her based upon the perception of disability, and interfered with her ADA advocate when he tried to do his job. She also complained that Judge Barall used derogatory language while referring to her two children who have a disability and refused to acknowledge that they are legally blind although this fact was well documented and he was fully informed of their disability.
In addition, in her Complaint, Elizabeth Richter brought to the attention of the Federal Court the fact that the Connecticut Judicial Branch does not have a publically identified ADA Coordinator as required by ADA law according to II-8.5000 of the Title II Technical Assistance manual. Further, it has provided confusing and misleading responses when asked to identify one. Also, the Judicial Branch does not have a meaningful grievance procedure.
Finally, Elizabeth Richter complained that the Connecticut Judicial Branch has been restricting ADA law to Title I of the ADA, instead of Title II as required by federal law, in an attempt to avoid providing the broader based and more encompassing modifications it is required to provide under Title II.
It is also important to note that since Ms. Richter filed her lawsuit in federal court, the Connecticut Judicial Branch has subjected her to interference and harassment in her role as an ADA Advocate in support of litigants with disabilities. This is also a violation of ADA law.
Ms. Richter's initial filing of her complaint was in November 2012 and then she Amended her complaint in April 2013. Despite that, the decision of the Federal Court dismissing her case was issued a full year later at the end of March 2014. Apparently, according to Ms. Richter, this is quite typical of legal proceedings. As she stated, "The Courts regularly drag out proceedings and delay responding to motions until the very last day because they hope that by doing so litigants will become discouraged and give up. That way the Court can avoid taking proper action and avoid bearing the consequences for a wrong decision."
And in this particular case, the decision really was wrong.
As Ms. Richter explains it, "What the federal court basically did was declare that I do not have a disability which is just totally ridiculous. I have been a person with a disability, and have a record of receiving treatment for anxiety over a period of many years, particularly since my misdiagnosis and wrongful hospitalization which ended in 1980. Furthermore, during the divorce I was diagnosed with acute stress disorder as a result of the legal proceedings as well as legal abuse syndrome. There is no way that I did not have a disability prior to the legal proceedings as well as during those proceedings. And I am continuing to take a pounding as I pursue my legal rights in Federal Court."
Ms. Richter continued on to say, "Even if you grant what the Federal Court said that I currently don't have a disability, that isn't even relevant. Under ADA law it is recognized that a misdiagnosis such as the one I had many years ago still qualifies you as having a disability." Nonetheless, the federal court decision of March 2014 denies that this is so.
Not only that, there is more to why the Federal Court made a completely misguided decision in Ms. Richter's case. Apparently, to be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability, defined by the ADA as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Otherwise, a person must have a history or record of such an impairment, or be a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. "What the Court did," stated Elizabeth Richter, "was argue that I only had temporary anxiety and it ignored my statement that I'd basically had a 30 year history of anxiety on and off. It twisted my words around and deliberately misinterpreted them."
Also, the Federal Court essentially argued that a temporary disability is not covered under ADA law. This is, in fact, untrue. Many temporary disabilities are covered under ADA law. Not only that, according to Elizabeth Richter, "The Federal Court simply refused to discuss the second and third categories under which I could have been held to be eligible for ADA protection, i.e. the fact that I had a record of a disability from my earlier psychiatric hospitalization, let alone my subsequent treatment for anxiety, and also my complaint that I was perceived as having a disability I did not have."
"What this really amounts to," stated Ms. Richter, "is the Judicial Nullification of Federal ADA law on the highest level."
This is particularly outrageous granting the passage of the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Essentially, Congress enacted the ADAAA of 2008 because it wanted to stop the mini-trials on whether a person had a disability or not and instead wanted to force attention on the merits of the case. This means that the Federal Court's extensive focus on whether Elizabeth A. Richter did or did not have an eligible disability was completely in violation of the law.
Furthermore, according to Chai R. Goldblum, a national expert on ADA policy, since the passage of the ADAAA in 2008, "The primary object of attention in cases brought under the ADA should be whether covered entities have complied with their obligations and whether discrimination has occurred, not on whether the individual meets the definition of disability." In its decision in Ms. Richter's case, the Federal Court simply refused to address the fact that The Connecticut Judicial Branch failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations and it failed to consider any of her other complaints. The Federal Court decision solely focused on whether Ms. Richter had a disability or not, in direct opposition to the spirit of the ADAAA.
What is even more ridiculous about the Federal District Court's decision in this case is that finally, after years of stonewalling, on December 7, 2012 a Judge of the State of Connecticut confirmed the fact that Elizabeth Richter has a disability that entitles her to the protections of Federal ADA law. As Ms. Richter stated, "Given the fact that a State Court judge has already confirmed that [I have] a disability based upon the same information that District Court has before it, how can the District Court then contradict that decision?"
This is not the first time that the Connecticut District Court has ruled that an individual everyone knows has a disability does not have a disability. For instance, in a recent decision in Andrew Adams v. Fun Festival Parks (Lake Compounce), the Court ruled that Mr. Adams was not disabled despite the fact that he'd been developmentally disabled since birth and in special programs throughout his public school education. In making its determination the Connecticut District Court cited exclusively pre-ADAAA of 2008 case law to justify its decision. This is exactly the same thing it did in the Richter case.
Even more troubling is the remark Elizabeth Richter made about the decision in her case in Connecticut District Court when it came out. She stated, "I am not even sure that a Judge wrote this decision. It shows such a profound lack of insight into Federal ADA law, it doesn't seem possible that a Judge wrote it. My guess is that the Judge had her clerk write it and then just signed off on it with just a cursory glance. That is a pretty outrageous way for our Federal Courts to be operating. Of course, I have no proof, but that is the way the decision looks and reads."
In ruling as it did in complete violation of Federal ADA law in these two cases, the Connecticut District Court has essentially signaled to CT State Government and its Agencies as well as to businesses throughout Connecticut that they are free to violate Federal ADA law.
People with disabilities better watch out, because it is open season on eliminating their human rights, their civil rights, and their constitutional rights.
Still, Elizabeth Richter has not allowed her complaint to end there. She has continued on with an appeal to the Second Circuit Court where she just submitted her final brief. We will eagerly await the results of that appeal.
Do any of you remember that publishing scam that used to makes its way to peoples' homes by mail. It went like this!
"Congratulations! You have been chosen among one hundred leading writers in the U. S. of A. to publish your poetry in the amazing 'Compendium of Outstanding Poets' for this year. If you will submit your $75.00 along with your poem to the following address so that you can receive a copy of the Compendium, you will see your poem published side by side with America's greatest poets!"
Of course, by the time you received a copy of the Compendium you find out that hundreds of other poets received the same letter. "Congratulations! You have been chosen!" Hurray, Hurray!
This is what appears to be going on when it comes to these awards attorneys keep on handing out to one another.
One such big scam is the "Super Lawyer" scam. Our friend, Attorney James T. Flaherty is a super lawyer, and I am afraid to check who else is.
Anyway, it seems that the CT Law Tribune runs a similar type scam!
Congratulations, you have been chosen as a New Leader in the Law! Send your tax free contribution to the following address! Ok, nothing specific like that is out there, but you have to wonder.
Ok, I'm not wondering--I know this CT Law Tribune award is nonsense--but you guys reading this might not be so aware of it.
Anyway, I have other blogs on this website talking about Attorney James T. Flaherty and his associates Attorney Sandi Girolomo and Attorney Pam Magnano, the latter recently celebrated in the CT Law Tribune, and there is no way that Attorney Magnano is leading anything--new or otherwise.
In fact, let me warn you to stay away from these attorneys because they will take all your money and leave you stranded with nothing.
If you look it up, this firm has two outstanding malpractice claims against them at the present time, and in the past other claims against them were settled out of court.
The CT Law Tribune seems to be the big apologist for crooked attorney scams.
Specifically, among other things, James T. Flaherty's firm has made a practice of running up enormous attorney fees and then taking former clients to civil court for collection and then foreclosing on their homes. Attorney Pamela Magnano has been closely involved with these activities.
A few years ago, the CT Law Tribune wrote an article seeking to justify that kind of behavior.
When I personally called the Tribune and gave them further information showing how fraudulent Flaherty's business practices were, the editor told me to send it to him by email which I did. But the editor never responded to my follow up communications regarding the matter or informed readers about what was really going on.
So The CT Law Tribune is not exactly a credible organization to listen to when it comes to its reports on the quality of local attorneys.
For information on the original announcement, see below:
It looks like we have another lawsuit in the making against O'Connell, Flaherty & Attmore, LLC, O'Connell, Attmore, and Morris, LLC, or what is it called--I'm getting all mixed up.
Apparently, I am not the only one!
It turns out, Cynthia J. Agostino became all mixed up too during her recent divorce! Originally, Ms. Agostino first approached O'Connell, Flaherty, & Attmore, LLC in 2002 at which time she was told about all the wonderful staff attorneys that would be available should her divorce require additional support.
Fast forward to 2011 when Ms. Agostino finally decided to move forward on her divorce. By then Attorney James T. Flaherty and some of his gal pals Attorney Pam Magnano and Sandi Girolomo had separated from the original firm and formed a new company with a similar sounding name--O'Connell, Flaherty & Attmore -- West, LLC.
It appeared to be a part of the original company since, according to Agostino, the names on the office door of the West Hartford office included, allegedly, the names Attorney O'Connell, Attorney Flaherty and Attorney Attmore. So it was, indeed, easy to assume the two offices remained part of the same law firm, but with an additional branch. In fact that wasn't the case. Attorney Flaherty had actually established an entirely separate law firm.
However, allegedly they didn't inform Cynthia Agostino of that fact.
As a result, allegedly she was left with the impression that she was dealing with the same law firm she had been dealing with in 2002 and was deceived into believing that she was contracting with the same law firm with a depth of experience and qualified, experienced personnel, when instead she was only dealing with Attorney Flaherty and his harpies.
Later on, allegedly Attorney Flaherty quietly started using the name Flaherty Legal Group on court documents submitted on Ms. Agostino's behalf, but they did so without informing her.
But this is not the worst of it. As Cynthia Agostino's divorce continued, Attorney James Flaherty allegedly submitted a whole bunch of motions on behalf of Ms. Agostino and then abandoned them so they were never followed through on in court. I can tell you something very similar happened to a friend of mine, so these particular allegations sound very credible.
The few motions he did follow up on, Attorney Flaherty handled incompetently allegedly. For instance, the Complaint states that "A motion for the husband to pay educational expenses resulted in an order for the payment of tuition only when Attorney Flaherty failed to alert the Court that participation in books, food and housing expenses for the Parties' child was also required."
The next thing that Attorney James T. Flaherty did was allegedly that when Cynthia Agostino gave Flaherty her compliance with production requests, he then misplaced the production materials and never gave them to her ex husband's attorneys. As a result, allegedly, Ms. Agostino was slammed with a bunch of contempt citations from her ex husband's attorney.
Right in the middle of all that Attorney James T. Flaherty allegedly, in typical Flaherty style, decided to withdraw from the case. Raise your hands, former clients of Jim Flaherty--Sound familiar????
And of course, we all know how it looks bad for the client when an attorney withdraws.
The telling point that Ms. Cynthia Agostino makes is that the Representation Agreement which she and Attorney James T. Flaherty signed states the following: "It is further agreed and understood that O'CONNELL, FLAHERTY & ATTMORE -- WEST, LLC will use their best efforts in representing me [the Plaintiff] in connection with this matter."
Well, clearly, the law firm allegedly failed to and refused to use its best efforts in representing the Plaintiff.
And, as prior reports on this disgraceful law firm have shown, it pretty much did the same thing with dozens and dozens of other former clients.
The Attorney General's Office has been informed of this. The Office of the Disciplinary Counsel has been informed of this. Statewide Grievance has been informed of this. And what have they done to correct this situation? Absolutely nothing! So much for allowing the legal profession to regulate itself!
As a result of Attorney James T. Flaherty's alleged incompetence which I have described in this blog, Ms. Agostino was forced to hire another law firm and pay an exorbitant amount of approximately $30,000.00 to complete her divorce because Jim Flaherty had made so many mistakes and the subsequent law firm had to play catch up.
Plus, I can imagine, even they figured they ought to cash in on a good opportunity. Any litigant who has his or her attorney withdraw on them can be assured that their next attorney will charge them five times what they ordinarily receive in attorney fees.
I know other Flaherty victims who have lost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or even millions will not consider this such a bad situation. However, my best bet is that Flaherty and his pals inflicted much more legal harm on Ms. Agostino--you don't want to be too wordy in a complaint. Plus, there are the other subtle humiliations this attorney and his girlie crew inflict upon his clients--the unreturned phone calls, the padded bills, the sneering implication that there is something the matter with you, the subtle and not so subtle threats, then the motion to withdraw, often without any warning.
Then they take you to collections. I could go on.
Usually, Flaherty leaves his victims financially and emotionally destroyed so they are unable to fight back or respond. Here we have Cynthia Agostino who is standing up for herself, and the many others who are not able to. I can only commend Ms. Agostino for her courage and willingness to speak out for all of us by filing this law suit. I will continue to provide updates as the fight for truth and justice continues.
We can only hope that sooner or later one of these lawsuits succeeds in holding Attorney James T. Flaherty to account for his alleged years and years of predatory law practice which has caused financial and emotional harm and damages to multiple victims with the complicity of an all too willing group of compliant judges and various government functionaries at his beck and call.
O'Connell, Flaherty and Attmore, LLC, which is now O'Connell, Attmore and Morris, LLC has had its online case list reduced from 69 to 50, a reduction of around 19 cases. Most of these are collection cases of consisting of former clients that O'Connell, Attmore, and Morris, LLC is suing.
There is no way to confirm whether there is any wrongdoing here when it comes to these cases which have disappeared, but I sure would like to know why a case list that has been posted untouched for a considerable period of time is now being whittled down. Is it because people like me have pointed out how no attorney firm of integrity would sue in collections up to 69 former clients?
The news is, of course, that reducing the list to 50 isn't a big improvement.
News Flash Folks! Good law firms do not have to sue their former clients because they have good relationships with those former clients because they did a good job.
I will continue to keep an eye out and report on this very intriguing situation where the O'Connell, Flaherty and Attmore, LLC case list is being reduced mysteriously by unseen hands.