Former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim kept his head down while a three-judge panel heard arguments for and against his reinstatement as a Connecticut lawyer, in the wake of his 2003 conviction and seven years imprisonment for corruption and lying.
His lawyer, Harold L. Rosnick, reminded the judges during a hearing Tuesday (Sept.11) in Bridgeport that all 14 witnesses before the Fairfield County Standing Committee on Recommendations to the Bar had favored Ganim getting his law license back. Rosnick argued that the weight of the evidence requires the judges to agree with the findings of the local panel.
“We had the burden of proof before the standing committee,” said Rosnick. Now, he said, the burden is on State Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King to prove that the committee was in error, under the “clearly erroneous” standard of review. “It is not a function of the [three-judge panel] to be finding issues of fact,” Rosnick argued.
Ganim, who has recently worked as a paralegal at his family’s The Ganim Law Firm in Bridgeport, was convicted of 16 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud, bribery and filing false tax returns. He was sentenced July 1, 2003 and released from prison on July 19, 2010.
Last year, Ganim formally filed his bar readmission application. He was ordered to complete a minimum of 12 hours of continuing legal education, pay fines, make restitution and complete 100 community service hours.
Ganim cleared a major hurdle this summer, when the Fairfield County standing committee, made up of five attorneys, issued a report saying they believe Ganim is “presently fit to practice law.”
At the hearing Tuesday, Judges Julia DiCocco Dewey, Barbara N. Bellis and Elliot N. Solomon pushed back. Dewey was the toughest: “Counsel, can I agree with all of their facts and come to a different conclusion?”
Rosnick replied that Ganim’s good “moral character” is a fact, as determined by the local panel, and that the judges could not reverse the local committee.
King argued that Ganim had never shown contrition or remorse for his misdeeds. Ganim said he accepted what had happened to him in the court system, but he didn’t do so with remorse or regret, King said, and that made her question whether he had really changed. “If he came in and said I’m sorry, I did all these things because I needed money or had some physical explanation, I might not be here today,” said King.
While in prison, Ganim was able to shave two years off his nine-year sentence, by participating in a substance abuse program. Before prison, he never raised substance abuse as a reason to lower his sentence, which stemmed from accepting expensive wines, tailored haberdashery and gourmet restaurant meals from city contractors. Federal Judge Janet Bond Arterton set his sentence at the high end, finding he lied repeatedly under oath before her.
King told the judges, “Finding Mr. Ganim failed to testify truthfully could be considered misconduct, the breach of an attorney’s obligation to be honest and truthful with the court.”
From her viewpoint, King said, “there hasn’t been the evidence to point to good moral character.”
Rosnick pointed to a large carton of files, which he said contained letters from some 200 friends, colleagues, clergy and senior members of the bar as “overwhelming evidence” of Ganim’s fitness.
Both King and Rosnick were given three days to submit final briefs on the matter. The panel gave no indication of when they might rule.