STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Flor Briceno, Complainant vs. Paul M. Ngobeni, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #06-0019
Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, One Court Street, Middletown, Connecticut on May 11, 2006.† The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on January 9, 2006 and the probable cause determination filed by the New Britain Judicial District, and Judicial District of Hartford for Geographical Area 12 and the towns of Avon, Bloomfield, Canton, Farmington and West Hartford Grievance Panel on March 22, 2006, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.15, 8.1(2) and 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book Section 2-32(a)(1).††††††
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant, to the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel, and to the Respondent on March 31, 2006.† Pursuant to Practice Book Section 2-35(d), Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King pursued the matter before this reviewing committee. The Complainant appeared at the hearing and testified. The Respondent did not appear. †Exhibits were admitted into evidence.
Reviewing committee member Dr. Paul Powers was not available for the hearing.† Since the Disciplinary Counsel waived the participation of Dr. Powers, this decision was rendered by the undersigned.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
The Complainant retained the Respondent in 1998 to pursue a discrimination case against her employer.† The Complainant paid a $2,000 retainer.† The Respondent thereafter gave the Complainant a copy of a complaint and a copy of a filing fee receipt, purportedly reflecting that the Complainantís lawsuit had been filed in federal court.† After talking with the Respondent a few times in 1999 regarding the status of the matter, the Respondent stopped communicating with the Complainant. †The Respondent has failed to reply to many telephone calls and some letters from the Complainant. At the time she filed her grievance complaint, the Complainant did not know† the status of her case.† The Complainant subsequently learned that the receipt given to her by the Respondent was for a case unrelated to her claim, and that no lawsuit had been filed on her behalf.
The Respondent did not file an answer to the grievance complaint.† †
This reviewing committee concludes by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent engaged in unethical conduct.† The Respondentís failure to initiate or pursue the Complainantís claim constituted a lack of competence and a lack of diligence, in violation of Rules 1.1 and 1.3, respectively, of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† The Respondentís failure to communicate with the Complainant in any way after 1999 was in violation of both subsections (a) and (b) of Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† Having not pursued the matter at all, the Respondentís fee was clearly unreasonable, in violation of Rule 1.5(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† The Respondent failed to account to the Complainant for the funds, in violation of Rule 1.15 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.† The Respondentís failure to answer the grievance complaint was in violation of Rule 8.1(2) of the Rules of Professional Conduct and Practice Book ß2-32(a)(1).† The Respondent falsely representing that the filing fee receipt was proof of having filed a lawsuit constituted conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, in violation of Rule 8.4(4) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
We direct the Disciplinary Counsel to file a presentment against the Respondent in the Superior Court for the imposition of whatever sanction is deemed appropriate.† The issue of restitution may be addressed to the court in the course of the presentment.
Since a presentment is a trial de novo, this reviewing committee further orders that the presentment include a charge that the Respondentís actions involving the false receipt constituted conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, in violation of Rule 8.4(3) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
DECISION DATE:††††† 7/17/06
Attorney Tracie Molinaro
Attorney Jorene Couture