STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Allean Jacobson, Complainant vs. Robert E. Ghent, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #01-0840
Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 95 Washington Street, Hartford, Connecticut on August 1, 2002. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on March 27, 2002, and the revised probable cause determination filed by the Waterbury Judicial District Grievance Panel on June 7, 2002, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on July 8, 2002. The Complainant and the Respondent appeared at the hearing and gave testimony. An exhibit was received into evidence.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainant retained the Respondent to represent her in connection with the refinance of her mortgage in or around November of 1999. A portion of the refinancing proceeds were going to be used to satisfy a lien placed on the Complainantís home by the law firm of Nair & Levin, PC on behalf of its client. In a letter dated November 24, 1999, Attorney Lisa Anderson from Nair & Levin advised the Respondent that her client would accept $2200 in satisfaction of the lien. The letter further indicated that the release of the judgment lien was enclosed and should be held in escrow until the payoff proceeds were received.
By letter dated November 30, 1999, the Respondent forwarded a check for $2200 to Nair & Levin in satisfaction of the lien. The Respondent also requested that the release of lien be forwarded to the Respondent. Attorney Anderson responded by letter dated December 6, 1999 and advised that the release of lien had already been forwarded to the Respondent with the November 24, 1999 escrow letter.
Several months following the closing, the Complainant learned that the release of lien had not been filed. Thereafter, over the next couple of years, the Complainant periodically telephoned the Respondent and was advised that Nair & Levin had not forwarded the release and that the Respondent was taking care of it. The Respondent made several telephone calls to Nair & Levin regarding the release, but never received it. The Respondent eventually advised the Complainant to contact Nair & Levin directly. On March 25, 2002, the Complainant contacted Nair & Levin, received the release, and had it recorded.
The Respondent did not respond to the grievance complaint.
This reviewing committee also considered the following:
The Complainant maintained that when she contacted Nair & Levin, they advised her that they had not heard from the Respondent since November of 1999.
The Respondent testified that the original release was not forwarded to him with the November 24, 1999 escrow letter. The Respondent received a copy of the release that was faxed to him along with a copy of the November 24, 1999 letter. However, the Respondent never received the original release of lien. The Respondent acknowledged that it was his responsibility to get the release filed, no matter how difficult it was to obtain the release. The Respondent advised this reviewing committee that he now holds all closing files until every document is received and filed.
The Respondent testified that his failure to respond to the grievance complaint was caused by the fact that the Complainantís file was in storage as the Respondent had recently moved his office. Once the Respondent located the file, and near the time that his response was due, his young son was involved in a serious accident. Although the Respondent later received a letter from the panel regarding his failure to respond, he took no further action.
This reviewing committee concludes that the Respondentís failure to obtain and record the release of lien on behalf of the Complainant constituted a lack of diligence, in violation of Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The record reflects that over a two-year period, the Respondent was unable to obtain the release of lien. The Complainant, however, was able to obtain the release after one telephone call to Nair & Levin. We conclude that the Respondentís actions to obtain the release were not diligent.
With respect to the Respondentís failure to file an answer to the grievance complaint, we conclude that the Respondentís failure to file a written response was for good cause and, therefore, do not find that the Respondent violated Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).
Since this reviewing committee concludes that the Respondent violated Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct, we reprimand the Respondent.
Attorney Robert J. Kor
Attorney Kathleen D. Stingle
Dr. Frank Regan