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The much-used Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act does have limits. It does not apply to employment disputes, and it doesn’t apply to the practice of law generally — only its “entrepreneurial and commercial aspects.” Those were two reasons why Hartford lawyer Arnold L. Beizer moved to strike a CUTPA count asserted by Albert P. Lenge, an associate who won a discriminatory and retaliatory firing award against Beizer last year. Lenge, who is represented by Hartford’s Jon L. Schoenhorn, has been attempting to collect the $17,836.16 in backpay and $14,036 in costs that were affirmed in last year’s Appellate Court case, Beizer v. Department of Labor. In that quest, Lenge filed a new action last year against Beizer and 429 Capitol Avenue Realty, contending that Beizer’s quitclaim of real estate at that address to the limited liability corporation was a failure to pay a judgment, a fraudulent conveyance and a CUTPA violation. Beizer referred questions about the case to David Jaffe, of Hartford, Conn.’s Spinella & Jaffe, who worked on the motion to strike the CUTPA count. Beizer explained he is in the process of winding up his legal practice of 21 years so he can move to Florida. Jaffe said he not seen the denial of his motion to strike, which was handed down Aug. 30 by Hartford Superior Court Judge Marshall K. Berger Jr. He said he was surprised by the ruling. “CUTPA applies to unfair and deceptive practices,” said Jaffe. “This was a matter between two practicing lawyers.” The defense argued that the case was “an employer-employee dispute between two attorneys that does not rise to the level of trade or commerce” and that there was no consumer relationship, no consumer transaction or general business practice giving rise to CUTPA. Just as lawyers have resisted the notion that the practice of law is a mere trade or business, the profession has fought against the concept that CUTPA applies to practicing law. The Connecticut Supreme Court has enunciated a general rule that the entrepreneurial aspects of the practice of law are covered by CUTPA and the noncommercial aspects of lawyering are not. This case marks a new point on that map. Berger found three superior court cases that say a fraudulent conveyance is a proper basis for a CUTPA claim if the conveyance is “in furtherance of a trade or commerce.” The judge concluded that Lenge’s allegations “relate to the entrepreneurial and commercial aspects of the practice of law” Berger wrote, concluding “therefore the plaintiff may bring a CUTPA claim against the defendants despite the fact that the original conflict arose out of an employment relationship.” Schoenhorn, in an interview, said Beizer’s argument that the case falls within the protected practice of law “was just a throwaway.” Wrangling over a debt in this manner is outside the practice of law, Schoenhorn said. As specific cases arise, like this, ones that better define what parts of legal practice are subject to CUTPA, lawyers may have new exposure; but this case did not create new liability, Schoenhorn contended. “I’ll be clear about this, it was not my intention to place more onerous conditions on the practice of law by arguing this. I doubt there are many lawyers who would try to defraud creditors by illegally transferring assets.”

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