STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Robert Kazersky, Nancy Kazersky, Complainants vs. Walter G. Johnson, Jr., Respondent
Grievance Complaint #00-0386
Pursuant to Practice Book §2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, Connecticut on April 3, 2001. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on November 6, 2000, and the probable cause determination filed by the New Haven Judicial District, Geographical Areas 7 & 8 Grievance Panel on January 5, 2001, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3 and 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book §2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainants and to the Respondent on February 16, 2001. The Complainants and the Respondent appeared and testified. Exhibits were admitted into evidence.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainants retained the Respondent to handle the sale of their home and the purchase of a new house. The purchase was completed on December 30, 1983. In March of 2000, the Complainants learned of a problem with the title to their home. The problem arose due to a divorce decree involving the sellers of the home that the Complainants purchased. This divorce decree had been recorded. At first the Respondent made some minimal attempts to resolve the problem, but then he stopped returning telephone calls from the Complainants. The Complainants had to retain new counsel, who resolved the matter just prior to the hearing date in this matter.
The Respondent testified that the Complainants’ allegations are accurate, and that this matter “slipped through the cracks.” The Respondent thought that a required deed would be provided by the seller’s attorney, but it was not. The Respondent acknowledged that it was his responsibility to secure the appropriate deed. When the problem later arose, the Respondent did do some investigation, but did not follow up on it. The Respondent acknowledged that he made a mistake, and apologized to the Complainants for the inconvenience, anxiety, and potential losses caused. The Respondent acknowledged the possibility of a malpractice claim. The Respondent further stated that he had no excuse for not filing an answer to the grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent’s initial failure to obtain the necessary deed to ensure clear title to the Complainants’ property, and his failure to follow through to resolve the problem once it was discovered by the Complainants, is a failure to act with reasonable diligence, in violation of Rule 1.3. The Respondent’s failure to return the Complainants’ telephone calls while they were seeking to have him resolve the problem constitutes a lack of communication in violation of Rule 1.4(a). The Respondent’s failure to file a written answer to the grievance complaint violates Practice Book §2-32(a)(1). The reviewing committee appreciates the Respondent’s candor in acknowledging his mistakes. The Respondent is hereby reprimanded.
Attorney Frederick W. Krug
Attorney Katherine Webster-O’Keefe
Ms. Johanna Kimball