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Showing posts with label ATTORNEYS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ATTORNEYS. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


"How can they call this due process?"  This has been my question from my early experiences of Family Court setups.  

I have always had the impression that within the first few months of my case, the attorney and the judge had essentially arrived at an understanding.  It appeared to me that no matter what I did, that understanding drove the case from the beginning to the end.  So what does that mean for attorneys?  If everything is arranged beforehand, can they truly be thought of as exercising their professional expertise and advocating for their clients diligently as they are required to do?

Ultimately, I ended up having eight attorneys in my case.  Each of them would make big promises to start with, but within a month or two after being hired, I would find they had fallen into the rut of this prior understanding. This meant that the attorneys ignored opportunities, refused to advocate for me in crucial issues, failed to submit important motions and documents, and essentially skewed the case so that it would end up in a way that was preconceived.  So consecutively, each of my attorneys did what it was that I'd fired the last one for!

This meant that everyone in my case had to be coordinating with one another to make sure the case ended as was expected and that the deception of advocacy on my behalf could be maintained. Some of this involved a certain amount of theater with the attorneys fake fighting in front of me, or fake arguing motions in front of the judge.  

It is disillusioning to find that family court has no connection to say "Law and Order" on television. You do not have two reasonably principled opponents arguing cases in court and may the best man win.  Pretty much one side or the other side agrees to win, and the rest is pretense.  If the client refuses to go along with being trashed, his or her attorney will simply withdraw and do as much damage as possible to his client while doing so.  

Preconceived outcomes are particularly obvious when you have one party represented by high powered attorneys and the other party self represented.  In cases like these, the self represented party is required to know the exact same information that an attorney has been trained in, yet the self represented party is essentially denied the equivalent due process rights and pretty much ignored when he or she asks for the same level of respect and service that an attorney requests.  

Still, the family court system by law is pretty much required to maintain the pretense of fairness even though the reality is far from it.  So the Judge in a case will allow an attorney to withdraw from a case, then give the client two weeks to find a new attorney, and then expect the new attorney to catch up with a multiple year case 14 days before trial.  The Judge will not allow a continuance even though the judge allowed the previous attorney to withdraw from the case, thus putting that clients' case in jeopardy because the new attorney won't have time to catch up.  

When the time comes to write up the Memorandum of Decision, the Judge will say something like "both sides were represented by counsel" when, in fact, one side was fully prepared since he or she was on the case for a number of years, while the other side only had two weeks to get oriented to the case. So its a lie, but one that only rarely gets corrected.  

That isn't fairness!  

That isn't giving both sides a chance to present their positions!  

That's putting your fingers on the balance and making sure it weighs in one direction only. 

Another phenomenon I've seen recently occurs when no family attorney will take your case. They know you want strong advocacy in support of your position.  They know the judge has determined a specific outcome in advance of trial and doesn't want it reversed on appeal.  As a result, not a single attorney will take your case because attorneys know their clients want good service, but they can't give it because if they try to the judge will find a way to punish them in a later case.  If you can't get an attorney to take your case, how is that justice?  And if you can only get an attorney to fake pursue your case, how is that justice also?  

This means litigants in this position essentially go from attorney's office to attorney's office, only to get the door slammed in their faces.  

So what happens then?  

Doesn't the family court still have to maintain the pretense that "both sides were represented" even though, in essence, they weren't? Indeed, they do! 

Currently, what has happened is that family court professionals have essentially assigned designated hitters to these cases in order to maintain the pretense that the loser was legally represented.  For now, the two I know of are Attorney David DeRosa and Attorney Alisha Mathers. Both of these attorneys are now out there representing members of the Coalition, each of whom are persona non grata in family court, and also any parties who are on the losing end of the stick in family court cases.  

But why do I even bother to say "respresenting".  Even using that word is a pretense because these attorneys aren't representing anyone but the will of a corrupt family court system in Connecticut. Some of the legal work I've seen them perform is just laughable. Nonetheless, their presence maintains the illusion that litigants are getting a fair shake when they actually absolutely are not getting one.  

Sadly, there is no attorney who is going to take on the challenge of arguing an unwelcome position posed by an unpopular client.  This is a waste of the Court's time.  There is only the family court attorney suckup who is going to bow and scrape to the system, and regularly stab his or her own client in the back upon command. This is not only happening in family court, however. It is happening in criminal court as well where plea bargaining has pretty much superseded the trial.

I know there are many family court litigants who will not believe this discussion of mine.  Sooner or later, however, they will feel the knife bite into that sweet spot between their shoulder blades.  It will happen.  Just wait for it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017


It has been interesting for me to read articles in "The Greenwich Times" about the horrific divorce cases which have taken place in Connecticut.  These are cases where mothers often lose everything that they have, not only their financial base, but also their children.  

Unfortunately, the focus in these articles has been on what litigants in family court have done rather than on the primary source of the problem, i.e. Family Court attorneys. So here for the uninitiated is a list of 25 things that Family Court attorneys do in order to generate conflict among family court litigants and profit from their distress. In no particular order, they are as follows. Such attorneys will:

Thursday, June 22, 2017


It was tough to read the May 12, 2017 "CT Law Tribune" article in connection to the Dianne Hart-D'Amato case, particularly as a person who has walked in Dianne's shoes and experienced what she has experienced.  It was angering to read Dianne, and by inference all self represented parties in family court, spoken of as "a disgruntled litigant."  

I wonder how attorneys and judges would feel if I spoke of them automatically as crooked attorneys or crooked judges simply by virtue of the fact that I do not agree with them.  It is not often a bully pulpit such as "The CT Law Tribune" exists as a means to tongue lash the people a particular profession does not like.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016



"Longtime attorney Thomas M. Murtha has resigned from the bar amid a state disciplinary action alleging he misappropriated clients' funds.

In one case, a client claims to be owed $100,000. Murtha submitted his resignation and waived his right to apply for readmission to the bar in Superior Court in Bridgeport on Sept. 8.

The state Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel had submitted an application for order of interim suspension against Murtha on Aug. 18..."


Sunday, April 17, 2016


Christopher Ingraham of "The Washington Post" reports as follows:

"America's lawyers have a serious drinking problem, according to a new report from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
More than 20 percent of licensed attorneys drink at levels that are considered "hazardous, harmful, and potentially alcohol-dependent." That's three times higher than the rate of problem drinking among the general public.
These numbers come from a survey of over 12,000 American lawyers, funded by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association. Male lawyers had higher rates of problem drinking than women, 25.1 percent compared to 15.5 percent. The highest rates overall were among lawyers under 30 (31.9 percent) and junior associates at law firms (31.1 percent). That's driven partly by younger Americans' tendency to be heavier drinkers in general, but it also could be a reflection of the stresses caused by trying to move ahead in a highly competitive field.
The factors driving lawyers' heavy drinking are "a rare confluence of high risk variables," said study lead author Patrick Krill in an interview. He's the director of the Legal Professionals Program at Hazelden Betty Ford. The fact that lawyers warrant their own specialized treatment program gives some sense of the prevalence of substance abuse issues in that field..."

Friday, May 22, 2015


In a 2009 Hartford Courant article about attorneys involved in the David Messenger case, journalist Monica Polanco wrote as follows:
"A lawyer who represented David Messenger - the man acquitted by reason of "mental disease or mental defect" of killing his pregnant wife, Heather, in 1998 - has filed a grievance with the Statewide Grievance Committee against a lawyer who briefly represented Messenger in 1998 and wants to represent Heather Messenger's family during a public hearing next month.
In a letter to the grievance committee dated Feb. 12, attorney Kerry Tarpey said that John Klar, a Vermont resident and registered lawyer in Connecticut, has "engaged in conduct which is adverse to the interests of his former client, David Messenger."
Meanwhile, Klar has leveled his own charge - that Tarpey has a conflict of interest."

For more information on this topic, please click on the link below:

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


According to the CT Law Tribune,

"A West Hartford lawyer who took part in a $3.5 million mortgage fraud scheme has been sentenced to a year and a day in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release, according to federal prosecutors.
Gabriel R. "Gabe" Serrano, 47, was sentenced May 8 by U.S. District Judge Alvin W. Thompson. He had previously pleaded guilty last August to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud, a charge that carries a maximum prison term of 30 years, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 10 years. His law license has been suspended since late 2013..."

Read more:

Saturday, May 9, 2015


By Elizabeth A. Richter

I was watching a family court proceeding the other day.  There had been a hearing early in the morning and the parties were negotiating in the hallway.  Then, that afternoon the mother's attorney handed his client a copy of his proposed dissolution agreement and said "I want you to sign this agreement right now as is."  

When the mother expressed concern that there were parts of the agreement she didn't think were in her best interests, her attorney said, "As your attorney, it is my legal advice that you sign this agreement."  Waving to his associate and a friend who was sitting nearby, the attorney said, "I have two witnesses here who can testify that I told you that it is my legal opinion that you should sign this agreement.  If you refuse to sign it, you would be going against attorney's advice"  

Underlying this attorney's words, which in my view were very carefully chosen, was an outright threat to withdraw from the case and leave his client on the lurch.  

So what about this situation?  Can an attorney simply withdraw from a case and leave his client on the lurch, even when they are in the middle of a trial as was the case here?  

My experience is that yes, yes the attorney can do whatever he wants to do.  

Granted this situation where your own attorney can bully and blackmail you into an agreement you don't want, can you ever really say that family court litigants have free choice.  

I say no.

I wasn't always aware of this situation.  No less an attorney than Attorney Debra C. Ruel told me that no judge would allow an attorney to simply withdraw, particularly just before or during a trial.  She said that an attorney wishing to withdraw would have to simply grin and bear it because withdrawing is almost an impossibility.  Within two weeks of her remarks, my attorney had withdrawn with the complete blessing of the family court judge.  

In my experience with family court which is getting to be quite extensive, I have never yet seen an attorney denied a motion to withdraw for any reason.  No matter how ridiculous and obviously trumped up the reason, attorneys always seem to get away with a withdrawal from a case whenever they want to.  

So why the lies?  

I don't know; it seems to be part of the double talk that is fundamental to the profession of the law.  

Officially, the client is supposed to be making the decisions in his or her case.  See Rule of Professional Conduct for Attorneys No. 1.2 "Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority between Client and Lawyer" which states "a lawyer shall abide by a client's decisions concerning the objectives of representation and shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued."  

And further, "a lawyer shall abide by a client's decision whether to settle a matter."  

The commentary on this section makes the interesting point that this rule "confers upon the client the ultimate authority to determine the purposes to be served by legal representation, within the limits imposed by the law and the lawyer's professional obligations."  Of course, this latter exception seems pretty broad! 

Then the commentary continues on to state that while a client may determine the goals of representation, it is the attorney who ordinarily establishes the means by which those goals will be achieved.  In short, "Clients normally defer to the special knowledge and skill of their lawyer with respect to the means to be used to accomplish their objectives, particularly with respect to technical, legal and tactical matters."  

Further down the line, the commentary also includes the remark that "legal representation should not be denied to people who are unable to afford legal services or whose cause is controversial or the subject of popular disapproval."  

These guidelines appear pretty clearcut to me.  So how is it possible that with such firm guidelines placing the client in control of the direction of the representation, that the scenario I described earlier could occur, that an attorney could threaten a client to approve a dissolution agreement as is or else and force her to sign it despite her better judgment?  

What about my situation? I had a similar experience where Attorney James T. Flaherty presented me the parenting agreement in my case and told me to agree to it as is or else.  Later, Attorney Flaherty sat silently during the pre-trial on the custody, and when I asked him finally why he wasn't helping me, he stood up, stated he was going to withdraw from my case, and walked out.  And he got away with doing so without any expression of disapproval from the Judge--Judge Solomon--when this happened.

I'll tell you how this happens; it happens because there are so many loopholes built into other areas of attorney's legal ethics that it is laughably easy for any attorney to nullify completely the mandate conferring decision making authority on the client.  

I had three attorneys withdraw in my case, so let me take a look at the reasons they provided for their actions.  Here is the first one, "The movant seeks to withdraw from this case as client fails to cooperate with counsel, thereby rendering counsel's assistance ineffective."  

Fails to cooperate?  What the heck is that?  I see, fails to cooperate by signing this agreement "as is".  That's a pretty big failure in cooperation.  Failure to do what you are told would be rather uncooperative, don't you think?  

Here is another one, "Movant seeks to withdraw from this case as counsel because there has been a breakdown in the attorney/client relationship".  Yeah, because the client refuses to sign the agreement "as is" and do what he or she is told to do.  

These are grounds for withdrawal that one advocate friend of mine once said, "that are big enough to drive a mack truck through."  

For a better sense of how big the loopholes are allowing an attorney to basically withdraw at will from a case, take a look at the Rule of Professional Conduct for Attorneys No. 1.16 Declining or Terminating Representation.  

Naturally, an attorney may withdraw from a case if a client wishes to use him to perpetrate fraud or a crime.  But more specific to this discussion is item (4) allowing an attorney to withdraw if "the client insists upon taking action that the lawyer considers repugnant or with which the lawyer has a fundamental disagreement."  

So what if the lawyer finds it repugnant, as clearly the attorney in my initial example did, that his client won't sign an agreement "as is."  What then?  

This provision is closely allied to one in item (6) which states that a lawyer can withdraw if "the representation...has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client." Right, by not doing as the client has been told and signing the agreement, or else try Item (7) "other good cause for withdrawal exists", which I assume means anything else that an attorney can come up with.  

This latter item, by the way, is another example of why an attorney can stand in public in the open corridor and loudly threaten his client because, as we just read, there is absolutely nothing in the attorney's code of ethics to stop him.  

It is even more absurd to think that family court litigants have even a modicum of choice when you consider that they aren't even entitled to "informed consent" which is a fundamental component of decision making.  Again, when it comes to the concept of informed consent, the attorney's code of ethics gives it to their clients in one location, while taking it away in another.

Thus, according to the Rule of Professional Conduct No. 1.4 "A lawyer shall promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed required..."  Further, "This means the attorney should provide sufficient information to the client regarding the tactics the attorney intends to use and whatever information is necessary to understand what is going on."  

Item (b) of this rule specifically states again, "A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation."  Also, under "Explaining Matters" the rules state, "The client should have sufficient information to participate intelligently in decisions concerning the objectives of the representation and the means by which they are to be pursued..."  

And then here comes the loophole! 

The end of the sentence says, " the extent the client is willing and able to do so."  

Thus, if a client says anything vaguely like "I am not willing or able to listen or understand what you have to say at the moment." how often, or how long, is an attorney required to continue explaining?  Who is the one who is going to assess objectively the extent of a client's willingness and ability?

Isn't this additional phrase another great big opportunity for excuse making when an attorney bypasses the client by misrepresenting or not mentioning the facts essential to making an informed choice and then resolves a case contrary to the wishes of his client?  

And that is not the only area in the Rules of Professional Ethics for attorneys where clients are denied their right to informed consent.  Try a later commentary on this section entitled "withholding information" where it states, "In some circumstances, a lawyer may be justified in delaying transmission of information when the client would be likely to react imprudently to an immediate communication".  

So if your client might "imprudently" refuse to sign an agreement "as is" if he or she were aware of some vital fact, as an attorney, you would be allowed to delay telling your client about it until the agreement was signed.  Isn't this the meaning of that particular clarification?  Again, we have a loophole that is so big, it encompasses the entire Atlantic Ocean as far as I am concerned.  

What is interesting in regard to this part of the commentary on informed consent is that the text singles out people with mental health disabilities as an example, and describes them as not entitled to informed consent.  This written policy is a direct violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act as well as an outright denial of civil rights to people with mental health disabilities.

When you have rules of conduct which are effectively cancelled out later on in the text by extraordinarily large loopholes and/or extensively detailed exceptions, these rules are effectively, to all intents and purposes, eliminated.  

What this means is that the implementation of coercive tactics is a reality in Connecticut family court, particularly the coercive tactic of an attorney threatening to withdraw the day before, or even the day of trial unless the client writes up a substantial check on the spot.  

The coercive tactic of demanding a client sign an agreement based upon the threat that the attorney will withdraw, this is a daily occurrence in family court.  

Then, in the most hypocritical fashion ever, clients who have been bullied and coerced in public in the open hallway in front of friends, court employees, and any stranger that walked by at the time, have to undergo a procedure called the "canvas" where they swear under oath on the stand in open court that they were NOT coerced.  

Not only that, in such agreements there is normally an additional provision detailing the fact that the client was not coerced when, in fact, everyone, often including the judge, knows that the client was bullied all the way down the line.  

What this means, of course, is that the illusion of choice for family court litigants is just that--an illusion.  The bottom line is that the attorneys make the agreements; they do the negotiations.  Then they lie, bully, blackmail, or manipulate--whatever it takes--in order to get their clients to rubber stamp them.  Regrettably, based upon the wording of the current rules of professional conduct for attorneys in the State of Connecticut, family court litigants have absolutely no recourse when that happens.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


According to the CT Law Tribune:

'Most times, we see this [disciplinary action] for mortgage fraud or something like that,' said an assistant disciplinary counsel. 'It's an odd case where you have a lawyer convicted of a violent crime.'

Read more:

Monday, March 16, 2015


Karen Ali of the CT Law Tribune reports as follows:

"Stamford attorney Richard Grant recently won a $360,000 legal malpractice case. But he's taking no particular pride in the victory. The defendant lawyer, Peter Shafran, never showed up to answer his charges.

"When there is no one there to defend it, it tends to make it easier," said Grant, of the Law Offices of Piazza, Simmons & Grant. "I tried to give him notice. We tried to find him. He never responded. It was a default judgment."

Grant said that to his knowledge Shafran is not practicing law at all in Connecticut. According to the Statewide Grievance Committee website, Shafran resigned his Connecticut law license in 2011 and waived the right to apply for reinstatement for 10 years. The next year, he was reprimanded by the grievance committee for engaging in "unethical conduct" for failing to record mortgage deeds for two 2009 real estate transactions in Fairfield County. A New York court imposed reciprocal discipline and disbarred him there in 2013..."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Karen Sloan of "The American Law Journal" reports as follows:

"Research suggests that lawyers suffer addiction at double the rate of the general population, but some experts fear the situation is even more dire. To find out, the American Bar Association and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation plan to survey lawyers about addiction, anxiety and depression.

“It appears the problem may be growing even worse,” said Patrick Krill, who leads the Hazelden legal professional program. “It’s time to update the research and, in doing so, highlight the apparent need to devote more attention and allocate greater resources to this important issue.”

A 2012 report by Hazelden cited findings that, as of 1990, 18 percent of attorneys had drinking problems, compared to 10 percent for the general population. One-quarter of the attorneys who’d practiced for 20 years or more had an alcohol problem, and lawyers suffering substance-abuse problems were also more likely to face malpractice suits."

Read more:

* Ms. Sloper notes:  "This is in regard to a profession that regularly in family court uses the fact that a parent could be in recovery from mental illness or alcohol addiction as the basis for denying the parent access to his or her children, despite clear cut evidence that the parent is responsible and a fit parent."



Saturday, April 12, 2014


I can recall when I first began to have problems in my own divorce.  At one point, I was calling around to speak to attorneys to find one who would be willing to work with me. Sometimes when I was calling around, I ended up having conversations with attorneys focusing on the many litigants who end up committing suicide.  I certainly believe that the subject of litigants and suicide might be one worth exploring. 

None of these attorneys mentioned that there is an issue in their own profession.  But, as my discussion in the first part of this report indicated, there are is a serious public health problem in connection to attorneys and their high rate of suicide.

Among the factors I mentioned involved in the high rate of suicide among attorneys is the drive to make money at all costs.  But in addition, another issue is that many attorneys are terribly overworked and overburdened.  On the website "Legal Cheek" one blogger put it this way, "The prevailing culture of 24/7 availability only makes matters worse.  And then there is the unwritten expectation that lawyers should put their work and firm first."
Another factor is personality.  According to journalist Deborah Cassens Weiss, "Personality characteristics often associated with lawyers, such as perfectionism and competitiveness, when combined with depression may  be contributing to a higher suicide rate in the legal profession." 

I noticed these qualities frequently when I worked as a temporary employee when I first arrived in Hartford in the late 1980s.  The attorneys I worked with were frequently very stressed out, very impatient and brusque, and unwilling to allow me any time to get oriented when I first arrived in their offices. 

In fact, I can recall that it was in an attorney's office that I had my first experience of actually calling my temp agency and asking them to "get me out of here right away!"  This attorney firm was criticizing my work even before I had a chance to walk from the front entrance over to the desk they had assigned me to. 

This was despite the fact that in those days I was highly skilled as an administrative assistant -- I was the fastest typist in my class, and I was also able to take stenographic dictation.  But it wasn't enough--I could tell within the first ten minutes. 

If attorneys have to work in such environments, and they aren't able to send out an S.O.S. to their supervisors, I can imagine how difficult it must be for them. 

Commentator Stuart Mauney also suggests that the problem is that the legal profession attracts pessimists.  As he put it, "Recent studies have shown that in all graduate school programs, in all professional fields except one, optimists outperform pessimists.  The one exception:  law school." 

He further noted, "Pessimism helps lawyers excel by making us skeptical of what our clients, our witnesses, opposing counsel, and judges tell us.  It helps us anticipate the worst and thus prepare for it."  I will say that people who are pessimistic are actually more realistic, or even more sane than the average, if you want to put it that way.  Even so, pessimism is bad for our mental health! 
Attorneys can also end up being socially isolated because they have argumentative and abrasive personalities that again, might make them successful in the courtroom, but also make them unpopular.  In general, Americans do not feel comfortable with intellectual exploration, critical thinking, or challenging ideas.  Instead, they value concensus and cooperation. 

America's homegrown promoter of this kind of harmonious  vision is Dale Carnegie of "How to Make Friends and Influence People" fame whose prime tenet was , "Don't Argue!"  Of course, if attorneys didn't argue, they couldn't earn a living!  

Has anyone watched the House of Commons in England confront the Prime Minister on television?  If you can, you should watch it sometime.  In these debates, representatives interrupt each other, they contradict each other, confront one another, and above all they challenge the Prime Minister directly and ask for immediate responses to the questions they pose.  If representatives don't get the kinds of answers they are looking for, they will call out the Prime Minister and each other on the flaws to their comments and demand better answers.  

This kind of direct confrontation and debate is very uncomfortable to most Americans.  Then look at attorneys and see that attorneys behave this way all the time!  It is their job to be this way!  

Unfortunately, however, annoying, irritating, demanding and challenging personalities simply do not play well in your average social situation, and for attorneys who cannot turn themselves off after court is over, this could lead to considerable social isolation. 
Further compounding the social isolation that might result purely based on personality, the practice of law has become increasingly isolated in recent years.  Some of this is the result of advances in technology which mean that attorneys can get a lot of their work done alone in their offices typing into a computer.  Thus, in an article published in the CT Law Tribune, one attorney, Frederic C. Ury wrote, "Unless you attend court on a regular basis or participate in bar association events, you no longer interact face-to-face with your fellow attorneys.  Instead, face-to-face has given way to Facebook, listservers, e-mail, text messaging and sometimes the antiquated telephone."
After reading this information, I have a better understanding of why the CT Bar Examiners are concerned about identifying those people who might have difficulties and seeking to monitor them.  However, it is always the spirit in which these tasks are done which counts.  It is one thing if you are seeking to undercut and stigmatize.  It is another thing to keep track so that you can intervene and be supportive if anything comes up and if you are trying to convey that help is available in time of need. 
On that note, for attorneys who need support here in CT there is a program known as Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers, which offers complete confidentiality.  

If you are interested in obtaining more information about this program, please click on the link below:

Online, I also took a look at another blog which I think would be helpful; see below:

Friday, April 11, 2014


As a Court Watcher, I have heard many attorneys point the finger at litigants and say he or she has a mental health disability and needs supervised visitation, or should be denied access to the children. 
Turns out this is a bit of the kettle calling the pot black because attorneys have some of the highest rates of mental illness in the country! 
From the articles I have read on the subject, this means that I am supposed to have more compassion for attorneys because of the sad fate they have in store for them because of the profession they have chosen.  One commentator said, you know that joke that goes, "How do you describe hundreds of lawyers at the bottom of the Ocean?  Answer:  A good start!"  Apparently, that joke isn't so funny in the light of the reality that there is an epidemic of depression and suicide among attorneys throughout the nation. 
Of course, I can't help responding that this epidemic is pretty much self-inflicted, and is nothing in comparison to the pain and suffering of the victims these attorneys leave behind.  But perhaps that is an argument for another day.
Let's get the data.  What I did was review several articles on the issue of attorneys, depression, and suicide and the following is the sum total of what was said:
1.  Lawyers, as a group, are 3.6 times more likely to experience depression than the general population;
2.  Of 104 occupations, lawyers were the most likely to suffer depression;
3.  A 1989 National Institute for Safety and Health found that male lawyers between the ages of 20 and 64 are more than twice as likely to die from suicide than men of the same age in other occupations;
4.  In 1990, a quality of life survey by the North Carolina Bar Association revealed that almost 26% of respondents exhibit symptoms of clinical depression, and almost 12% said they contemplated suicide at least once a month.  Studies in other states have found similar results.  In recent years, several states have been averaging one lawyer suicide per month.
5.  A 1991 North Carolina Bar Association study found that 25% of lawyers suffered symptoms of anxiety three or more times a month in the last year;
6.  In a 1997 study, suicide accounted for 10.8% of deaths among lawyers in the U.S. and Canada, and was the third leading cause of death among this group;
7.  Furthermore, the study concluded that the suicide rate of attorneys was 6 times as much as the rate of the general population;
8.  According to a study by Prof. Andy Benjamin (U. of Washington) by the spring of their 1L year, 32% of law students are clinically depressed, despite being no more depressed than the general public (about 8%) when they entered law school.  By graduation, this number has risen to 40%.  While this percentage dropped to 17% two years after graduation, this rate of depression was still double that of the general public;
9.  Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among attorneys, but only the 10th leading cause of death in the general population;
10.  Attorneys are 3 times as likely to be depressed as the general population;
11.  Attorneys are 2 times as likely to be addicted to drugs and alcohol as the general population;  (Then people who struggle with substance abuse are about six times more likely to kill themselves)
12. A John Hopkins study found lawyers have the highest rate of depression of any profession;
These are pretty sobering statistics.
The majority of individuals who are at risk are lawyers and judges aged 48-65, trial lawyers, or as one journalist put it, "It's men in their 50s." 
So what is going on?  Why is this happening? 
One person, Yvette Hourigan of the Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program speculated that the reason is that legal work involves a high level of stress. 
As she put it, "There are a lot of high stress professions.  However, when the surgeon goes into the surgical suite to perform his surgery, they don't send another physician in to try to kill the patient.  You know, they're all on the same team trying to do one job.  In the legal profession, adversity is the nature of our game." 
I think that what brought this issue to the forefront of so many people's minds was the 2009 suicide of Attorney Mark Levy, one of the most skilled appellate lawyers in the country, and friend to many powerful individuals in Washington.  He was around 59 years old and had just been let go from the firm Kilpatrick Stockton when he came to work in the morning, pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head.  
While many expressed puzzlement for his decision to kill himself, after a while the picture emerged of a profession for whom money is the bottom line. 
An attorney who cannot generate major income by generating hefty bills to clients will not be successful.  
Unfortunately, the focus on cold cash was an approach to the legal profession that Attorney Levy did not feel comfortable with and this was a substantial reason for his death.   
As journalist Richard B. Schmitt put it, "Levy loved the practice of law, but he struggled with the business of law.  Without a firm stable of paying clients, he grew vulnerable in a world where rainmaking is often valued over skill and judgment." 
Further, "He was not interested in compromising to make law a business."
And "Levy never relished the role of salesman." "He was a superb lawyer but he wasn't a business-getter." 
Finally, "his disdain for marketing and client recruitment again seemed to undermine his standing with firm management." 
In a field such as the law, where attorneys and their supervisors expect to make six digit salaries or more, ideals, ethics, and sometimes basic human compassion end up on the wayside, as we litigants in family court have observed and experienced. 
But the attorneys who make those kinds of decisions to let go of basic human decency inevitably pay the price for that, if not professionally, then indeed personally.  If you are a good person and you don't go along with the "money is everything" mentality, you are doomed to suffer in terms of your career.  So, in a way, you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. 
(More on this topic in Part II.) 

Friday, March 7, 2014


Attorney Norm Pattis begins by saying, "Superior Court Judge Leslie Olear of West Hartford is no doubt a profoundly grateful jurist. She was nearly turned out of office by lawmakers the other day. The House of Representative voted 78-67 to permit her to keep her job, an unusually narrow margin. The state Senate voted 28-4 to keep her, but only after the House had already approved her.
What nearly derailed the career of this judge?
The family law "system is crying out for reform," said Hartford Democrat Rep. Edwin Vargas. "I'm not saying that this judge is the only one that doesn't deserve reappointment. There are quite a few of them."
What is remarkable is that dozens of other lawmakers apparently agree with Vargas. If so, these lawmakers should offer us something more than bullying judges who are doing the best they can with the flawed legal doctrines and policies that lawmakers created in the first place.
I've never appeared before Judge Olear; indeed, I don't think I could pick her out of a lineup if my life depended on it, so I don't know whether the near-torpedoing of her judicial career was warranted."
For more information on Attorney Pattis' remarks, please click on the link below:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014




Phone: (860) 522-8338
Fax: (860) 728-0401
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B.A. Connecticut College, 1982
J.D. University of Connecticut School of Law, 1986

State of Connecticut, 1986
United States District Court for the District of Connecticut, 1987
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, 1991
United States Supreme Court, 2006

DISTINCTIONSAV Peer Review Rated, Martindale Hubbell
Selected as one of Top 25: 2013 Women Connecticut Super Lawyers
Listed in
Super Lawyers, 2006-2007, 2009-2013
Listed in
Best Lawyers since 2010 for Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law
Appointed to the Committee on Admissions and Grievances for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by the Honorable Dennis Jacobs, Chief Judge. (2010-present)

Professional Disciplinary Matters, Ethics Consultations and Bar Admissions; Connecticut and Second Circuit Appellate Litigation; Appellate Consultation in Trial Proceedings, State and Federal Trial Consultation and Litigation.

Professionalism Practice
Attorney Knox represents attorneys before grievance panels, at public hearings before the Statewide Grievance Committee, and in presentments and appeals. She also represents clients as to the unauthorized practice of law matters. Attorney Knox represents attorneys seeking reinstatement or readmission to the Connecticut Bar and represents candidates for bar admission before the Bar Examining Committee. She consults with attorneys on random audits of client's funds accounts by the Statewide Grievance Committee. Attorney Knox consults with firms on a myriad of issues involving the Rules of Professional Conduct. Attorney Knox also handles matters involving the State of Connecticut Code of Ethics, including investigation and evaluation of complaints before the OSE. She represents clients before the Citizen's Ethics Advisory Board.

Attorney Knox has served as an expert witness on professionalism and the rules of professional conduct in grievance and in legal malpractice matters.

For those of you who want to read Attorney Knox's apologia on behalf of Judge Leslie Olear who was barely reappointed at the recent legislative session, please click on the link below, and that will lead you to the CT Tribune article:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


The issue is heating up again for the legal profession.  What kinds of questions in regard to candidates' mental health treatment can the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee ask of fledgling attorneys applying for admission to the bar?

A recent article by Jay Stapleton of "The Connecticut Law Tribune" gives you a taste of the kinds of questions the Bar is currently asking.  According to Stapleton, the recent application for admission to the bar asked the question, "During the past five years, have you engaged in conduct or behavior which caused you to be  voluntarily or involuntarily treated for...disorders [such as] schizophrenia, bipolar or major depressive mood disorder, drug or alcohol abuse, impulse control disorder, kleptomania, pyromania, explosive disorder, pathological or compulsive gambling."  

(Personally, I think if they are interested, they should really check out narcissistic personality disorder as well since, as I understand it, a good majority of lawyers have that disorder.) 

What will be done if the candidate responds in the affirmative?  Apparently, "If the applicant does have a relevant history, they are required to turn over mental health records, for the CBEC to review." 

Attorneys who have been subjected to such inquiries speak about them as being degrading, humiliating, and traumatic.   

Let me reach across the great divide and embrace my brother and sister attorneys for understanding what we parents in CT Family Court have been saying ever since mental health professionals started to make their way into the court system and began their reign of terror on us.  You are absolutely correct.  Inquiries in regard to our mental health as parents has no bearing on the legal proceedings in family court, or our ability as parents, any more that such inquiries have relevance in regard to how an attorney practices law. 

As parents who have been discriminated against, stigmatized, scrutinized, labeled and subjected to the worst kind of invasion of privacy based upon our mental health history, or the fabricated reports generated by the courts once we arrived, let us say to you our brother and sister attorneys who are stuck in the same exact boat, we share your pain. 

Attorney Kathleen Flaherty's story is a case in point.  According to an article published in "The New York Times" on August 5, 2013 by Melody Moezzi, Attorney Flaherty is a CT attorney who graduated from Harvard Law School and who has bipolar disorder.  She was a member of the Massachusetts and New York bars.  Then in 1990, she applied for admission to the Connecticut Bar and was denied.  Upon appeal, she had to endure a year of hearings regarding her mental health which, according to Moezzi, "one questioner characterized as torture." 

Ultimately, Attorney Flaherty was granted conditional admission which required her to provide "a doctor's report and affidavit semi-annually" confirming she was fit to practice for a period of nine years.  According to Moezi, "No one should have to experience such humiliation.  Not just because such mental health inquiries are irrelevant and unethical, but also because they can be illegal.  The regulations implementing Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act forbid public entities to administer licensing programs that discriminate against qualified candidates on the basis of disability." 

Eureka!  Just fabulous!  Again, we are on the same ground.  Because you see, my attorney friends, and now compatriots and soulmates, (let me kiss your cheeks!) the Americans With Disabilities Act also forbids public entities such as the Connecticut Judicial Branch from discriminating against litigants on the basis of disability, which includes in its definition, "mental health disability." 

For those who need clarification, in essence, Title II of the ADA provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12132. 

The issue of mental health inquiries on the application to the bar has been boiling for over a decade.  In 2006, it became particularly  relevant when  the CBEC included depression as part of their general inquiry regarding mental health treatment.  This significantly extended the net in terms of people who would be identified and subjected to increased scrutiny. 

The spotlight again shone on this issue when Dr. Michael J. Herkov, a mental health consultant with the Forida State Board of Bar Examiners, published an article entitled "Mental Illness and the Practice of Law" in the March 2013 edition of "The Bar Examiner" 

In this article, Dr. Herkov attempted to provide some guidelines for when it would make sense to investigate a candidate further before allowing him or her to proceed with practicing law.  This article prompted a written response in a Letter to the Editor of "The Bar Examiner" signed by 43 "lawyers with mental health conditions, mental health experts, and disability civil rights practitioners" who protested the presumptions behind Dr. Herkov's attempt to establish some guidelines for screening applicants to the bar who have mental health disabilities. 

What this does, states this letter to the editor, is create "a rebuttable presumption that mental illness may equal an incapacity to practice law unless and until "proven" otherwise.  These are the very prejudices and stereotypes that the ADA prohibits and is designed to eliminate." 

Yes, yes, I agree.  In the same way, attempts to screen parents in CT Family Court in order to determine whether they should be allowed to be parents creates a very similar rebuttable presumption regarding parenting, and it is just as wrong to do that to parents as it is to do that to attorneys! 

The letter continues on to say, "we contend that the bar's goal of protecting the public against unfit practitioners and preserving the integrity of the profession is best served by targeting questions to a person's behaviors and conduct." 

This makes absolute sense to me in regard to my parenting.  What difference does it make what diagnosis I have if I feed my children three meals a day, provide them with a roof over their heads and beds to sleep in, pay their basic expenses, make sure they are clothed and have their books when they board the bus for school, and stand there waiting when they get off the bus. If I have a record of getting my children to all their after school activities and doctor's appointments in a responsible manner, why do you need to put me through a psychological examination, when it is what I have done to further my children's best interests that matters, not what labels you can slap on me. 

Seriously, in the scheme of things, if you have full information regarding what I have done with my children, what difference does a label make? 

The letter continues on to say, it is a well-established fact "that a mental health condition or history of treatment does not in itself preclude one from a successful, productive, responsible life as an attorney." 

Likewise, the same material does not, "in itself preclude one from" having a successful, productive, and responsible life as a Mom or Dad. 

That is the bottom line. 

The letter continues on to say more.  Apparently, Dr. Herkov wrote extensively about what he saw as the correlation between mental health diagnosis and good character.  The signers of the letter to the editor, however, find this correlation completely offensive stating, "The empirical evidence for this kind of prediction is notoriously limited, and, thus, when used in this way, in many contexts, legally impermissible and ethically approaching what many would deem as unconscionable." 

Unconscionable.  Unconscionable.  That is what I call the behavior of judges in CT Family Court who point their fingers at litigants and accuse them of having mental health disorders without any kind of testimonial or documentary evidence. 

That is what I call it when judges and attorneys deny litigants their rights to due process as well as their human, constitutional and parental rights based upon a mental health diagnosis or history. 

Further, the writers of this letter state, "no evidence indicates that mental health providers or bar examiners can predict inappropriate behavior on the basis of a person's mental health history.  What the evidence does show is that past behavior and not mental health condition is the most reliable predictor of future behavior." 

Right, that is exactly right.  This is why assigning psychiatrists to do custody evaluations and ordering psychological evaluations are completely irrelevant, because the ability to parent, in the same way as the ability practice law, has nothing to do with a mental health label, and everything to do with a persons behavior up to that time. 

Finally, the letter states that assessments in regard to a candidate's fitness to work as an attorney "should comply with the ADA's mandate that persons with disabilities, including mental disabilities, be assessed as to their abilities, not disabilities." 

Parents, also, should be assessed in regard to their parenting based upon their abilities, not their disabilities. 

I couldn't agree more. 

More recently, on January 31, 2014, Attorney David McGuire and Sandra Staub of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut sent a letter to retired Judge Anne Dranginis, Chair of the CBEC asking the Committee to remove these questions in regard to mental health background from the applications to the Bar. 

In addition, recently the U.S. Department of Justice indicated that states which inquire into mental health condition or treatment when assessing a candidate's fitness to practice law are in violation of Title II of the ADA. 

Samuel Bagenatos, a University of Michigan professor and disability law expert agrees that under Title II of Federal ADA law, the focus should be on what people are capable of doing, not on their medical condition.  And further Bagenatos stated, "That is the law, plain and simple.  As the gatekeepers to the legal profession, the bar should know and follow the law." 

Likewise, litigants in CT Family Court think that Family Court should obey the law as well.  For once, we all have common ground.  It seems no one likes to be bullied, harassed, stigmatized or discriminated against based upon a label, particularly when it is against the law.