State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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Cordi-Allen v. City of Hartford

CASE NO. 4422 CRB-1-01-7

COMPENSATION REVIEW BOARD

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION COMMISSION

JANUARY 30, 2002

BARBARA CORDI-ALLEN

CLAIMANT-APPELLANT

v.

CITY OF HARTFORD

EMPLOYER

and

CONSTITUTION STATE SERVICE

INSURER

RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES

APPEARANCES:

The claimant appeared pro se at oral argument in her appeal from the ruling on the motion of her attorney to withdraw as counsel.

The claimant’s counsel, R. Bartley Halloran, Esq., Levy & Droney, 74 Batterson Park Road, P. O. Box 887, Farmington, CT 06034 appeared as the appellee on the ruling on his motion to withdraw as counsel for the claimant.

The respondents were represented by Jason M. Dodge, Esq., Pomeranz, Drayton & Stabnick, 95 Glastonbury Boulevard, Glastonbury, CT 06033. The issue on appeal before the Compensation Review Board did not involve this respondent insurer. Thus, it did not appear or participate in proceedings before the Compensation Review Board.

The health insurer, Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Connecticut was represented by Amy Ravitz, Esq., Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Connecticut, P. O. Box 655, North Haven, CT 06473. The issue on appeal before the Compensation Review Board did not involve this health insurer. Thus, it did not appear or participate in proceedings before the Compensation Review Board.

This Petition For Review from the July 17, 2001 Memorandum Re: Motion To Withdraw Appearance of the Commissioner acting for the First District was heard December 14, 2001 before a Compensation Review Board panel consisting of the Commission Chairman John A. Mastropietro, Commissioners George A. Waldron and Ernie R. Walker.

OPINION

JOHN A. MASTROPIETRO, CHAIRMAN. The claimant has petitioned for review from the commissioner acting for the First District’s granting of claimant’s counsel’s Motion To Withdraw Appearance.1 Following a formal hearing, the trial commissioner in his July 17, 2001 Memorandum Ruling Re: Motion To Withdraw Appearance granted claimant’s attorney’s request to withdraw from representation. Thereafter, the claimant took the instant appeal.

Under Rule 1.16 of the Rules of Professional Conduct2, there are certain circumstances under which a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client. The rules provide in pertinent part:

[A] lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client, or if:
(1) The client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;
(2) The client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;
(3) The client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent;
(4) The client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;
(5) The representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or
(6) Other good cause for withdrawal exists. (emphasis ours)

At the formal hearing counsel for the claimant testified as to the serious deterioration in the attorney client relationship. That deterioration was evidenced by a fundamental disagreement between them as to litigation strategy. Additionally counsel testified that the claimant had given him directives that he; (1) was not to correspond with claimant’s physicians, (2) was not to negotiate with opposing counsel, (3) was to act as claimant’s paralegal. Furthermore, the claimant filed a grievance with the Statewide Grievance Committee against claimant’s counsel.3

The trial commissioner granted claimant’s counsel’s Motion To Withdraw Appearance. We now are asked to review the legal propriety of the commissioner’s ruling. The standard of review to be applied in our consideration of this matter is whether the trial commissioner’s ruling was an abuse of his discretion. See State v. Fernandez, 254 Conn. 637 (2000).

The testimony before the trial commission by both the claimant and claimant’s counsel speaks for itself. The testimony clearly suggests that the level of trust necessary between an attorney and his/her client has been seriously damaged. As this tribunal noted in Napolitano v. Bridgeport, 4388 CRB-4-01-5 (Oct. 22, 2001), “In order for counsel to function effectively as an advocate, there must be some semblance of a rapport between counsel and his client. If both individuals are wholly at odds with one another, the attorney is unlikely to be able to fulfill his designated role.” See also, Matza v. Matza, 226 Conn. 166, 184 (1993).

At one point in the proceedings below, the trial commissioner asked the claimant whether she agreed that claimant’s counsel should not continue as her attorney. The claimant replied, “I don’t think he should be an attorney. Period.” See July 9, 2001 Transcript, p. 24. Clearly, the trial commissioner’s ruling is supported by the evidence and thus, is not based on unreasonable or impermissable factual inferences or contrary to law. Fair v. People’s Savings Bank, 207 Conn. 535 (1988).

We therefore, affirm the commissioner acting for the First District’s July 17, 2001 Memorandum Re: Motion To Withdraw Appearance.

Commissioners George A. Waldron, and Ernie R. Walker concur.

1 Claimant’s counsel’s Motion To Withdraw Appearance in the representation of the claimant was made in the form of a letter to the trial commissioner dated May 29, 2001. This letter was marked as Joint Exhibit 1 at the July 9, 2001 Formal Hearing. See July 9, 2001 Transcript, p. 8. BACK TO TEXT

2 Rule 1.16. of the Rules of Professional Conduct more fully stated provides:

(a) Except as stated in subsection (c), a lawyer shall not represent a client or, where representation has commenced, shall withdraw from the representation of a client if:

(1) The representation will result in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law;

(2) The lawyer’s physical or mental condition materially impairs the lawyer’s ability to represent the client; or

(3) The lawyer is discharged.

(b) Except as stated in subsection (c), a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if withdrawal can be accomplished without material adverse effect on the interests of the client, or if:

(1) The client persists in a course of action involving the lawyer’s services that the lawyer reasonably believes is criminal or fraudulent;

(2) The client has used the lawyer’s services to perpetrate a crime or fraud;

(3) The client insists upon pursuing an objective that the lawyer considers repugnant or imprudent;

(4) The client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer’s services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;

(5) The representation will result in an unreasonable financial burden on the lawyer or has been rendered unreasonably difficult by the client; or

(6) Other good cause for withdrawal exists.

(c) When ordered to do so by a tribunal, a lawyer shall continue representation notwithstanding good cause for terminating the representation.

(d) Upon termination of representation, a lawyer shall take steps to the extent reasonably practicable to protect a client’s interests, such as giving reasonable notice to the client, allowing time for employment of other counsel, surrendering papers and property to which the client is entitled and refunding any advance payment of fee that has not been earned. The lawyer may retain papers relating to the client to the extent permitted by other law. If the representation of the client is terminated either by the lawyer withdrawing from representation or by the client discharging the lawyer, the lawyer shall confirm the termination in writing to the client before or within a reasonable time after the termination of the representation. BACK TO TEXT

3 We note that the record indicates that Atty. Halloran offered to provide the commissioner with documents pertaining to the claimant’s grievance filed against Atty. Halloran. On the basis of our review of the transcript of the proceedings, we note that claimant did not object to Atty. Halloran’s offer of documents pertaining to the grievance at the time of the formal hearing. See July 9, 2001 Transcript, pp. 15-17. However, by letter dated July 10, 2001 Atty. Halloran informed the trial commissioner that although the claimant had not objected to the submission of his answer to her complaint filed with the Statewide Grievance Committee at the hearing before the trial commissioner, at some time following the proceedings, the claimant objected to Atty. Halloran’s submission of the documents which were to be marked as Claimant’s Exhibit A. Claimant’s counsel requested that the trial commissioner render his decision without the documents. The trial commissioner complied with Atty. Halloran’s request. BACK TO TEXT

Workers’ Compensation Commission

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State of Connecticut Workers' Compensation Commission, John A. Mastropietro, Chairman
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