STATEWIDE GRIEVANCE COMMITTEE
Alex Gromow, Complainant vs. Martin B. Steinmetz, Respondent
Grievance Complaint #98-0673
Pursuant to Practice Book ß2-35, the undersigned, duly-appointed reviewing committee of the Statewide Grievance Committee, conducted a hearing at the Superior Court, 300 Grand Street, Waterbury, Connecticut on August 5, 1999. The hearing addressed the record of the complaint filed on February 16, 1999, and the probable cause determination filed by the Stamford/Norwalk Judicial District Grievance Panel on May 21, 1999, finding that there existed probable cause that the Respondent violated Rules 1.3, 1.4, 1.15(a), 1.15(b), and 8.1(2) [formerly 8.1(b)] of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Notice of the hearing was mailed to the Complainant and to the Respondent on June 24, 1999. The Complainant did not appear at the hearing before this reviewing committee. The Respondent appeared and gave testimony.
This reviewing committee finds the following facts by clear and convincing evidence:
On or about September 10, 1998, the Respondent deposited a check in the amount of $1,500.00 in his checking account which was to be used to pay a moving and storage company that had been storing the Complainant's furniture. The Respondent had represented the Complainant in obtaining these funds. The Respondent did not pay the storage company until approximately November 30, 1998. On October 14, 1998, the Respondent told the Complainant's wife that he had the check for the storage company. Thereafter, the Complainant and his wife retained new counsel. Sloppiness and carelessness on the Respondentís part resulted in the delay of the payment of the storage company. The Respondent deposited the $1,500.00 into his checking account, not into his client trust account. The Respondent has paid any additional storage costs incurred due to the delay.
This reviewing committee finds the following violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct by clear and convincing evidence:
The Respondent did not act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing the Complainant. The Respondent's delay from September 10, 1998 to November 30, 1998 in paying the storage company constituted a violation of Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent did not keep his client reasonably informed about the status of the matter and did not promptly comply with reasonable requests for information. The Respondent did not explain the delay in the matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. The Respondentís lack of communication with his client constituted a violation of Rule 1.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondent did not hold the property of his client that was in his possession in connection with the representation separate from the Respondentís own property. The Respondentís failure to keep his clients property separate from his own property constituted a violation of Rule 1.15(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Upon receiving the funds from the Complainant which the storage company was entitle to receive, the Respondent did not promptly deliver the funds to the storage company in violation of Rule 1.15(b) of the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Respondentís failure to file an answer to this grievance complaint with the Grievance Panel in time for the grievance panel to consider it constituted a violation of Rule 8.1(2) [formerly 8.1(b)] of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Accordingly, this reviewing committee reprimands the Respondent.
Attorney M. Katherine Webster-O'Keefe
Attorney Frederick W. Krug
Ms. Johanna Kimball