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An attorney caught removing case files from the clerk’s office at Bridgeport, Conn., Superior Court last month in a bizarre attempt to delay motions from appearing on the court’s short calendar docket has reported his actions to the Statewide Grievance Committee, according to the lawyer representing him. In a statement given through his counsel July 26, Joseph J. DeLucia, of Bridgeport’s Miller, Rosnick, D’Amico & DeLucia, said he “deeply regrets” taking the files from the courthouse — a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years, under C.G.S. section 53-153. Both his lawyer, Salvatore C. DePiano, a criminal defense specialist at Bridgeport’s DePiano, Gentile, Czepiga & Soares, and officials at the Main Street courthouse refused to give specific details of the incident or say over what period of time it occurred. The matter is subject to an ongoing Judicial Branch investigation, said Bridgeport Superior Court Chief Clerk Donald J. Mastrony. Sources, however, said DeLucia’s alleged acts recently came to light when a person working in the courthouse spotted the plaintiffs’ lawyer walking out of the clerk’s office with a case file. DeLucia then acknowledged to court officials that he previously had removed numerous other files from the building. Sources put the number of files involved at 13. DePiano emphasized that there is no claim that DeLucia tampered with the files while they were in his possession. “It does have the appearance of stress, work-related activity,” DePiano said of his client’s motives. Chief Court Administrator Joseph H. Pellegrino put the incident in a similar light. “This is not for money or anything like that. He [DeLucia] was up against a deadline … and did something stupid,” Pellegrino said. RELYING ON ATTORNEYS’ HONOR “I’ve been a lawyer for 35 years, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of this,” Pellegrino said of an attorney taking files out of a clerk’s office without permission. “Clerks,” Pellegrino added, “are very good” at making sure that files remain inside the area of clerks’ offices that is accessible to the public. But in busy judicial districts where several files are being viewed at the same time, “I can see how it can happen,” Pellegrino conceded. Joseph D. D’Alesio, executive director of Superior Court Operations, said security protocols are dictated by the size of a particular facility. In some of the smaller Connecticut judicial districts, such as Litchfield, people viewing files practically sit at the same desk as the clerks themselves, he said. In larger J.D.s with multiple viewing stations, however, stricter security measures are imposed. In Bridgeport, people requesting to review a file must list both their names and the case’s docket number, Mastrony said. Still, the system is hardly fail-proof. “Obviously, there are files that are misfiled,” Mastrony said. On any given day, there also may be several files in judges’ chambers or in the hands of other court officials. Thus, there is no way of determining whether a file is missing until a person actually shows up and requests to see it, Mastrony explained. “Lawyers,” Pellegrino added, “are officers of the court, so you have to rely on them being officers of the court.” He said a single attorney’s misconduct does not justify spending more money to improve the monitoring of files. “I think now [clerks] will be a little more vigilant,” Pellegrino said, before adding, “I’m not saying that somebody wasn’t vigilant” in regards to DeLucia’s acts. Pellegrino said, to his knowledge, no court employee assisted DeLucia in removing the files. ‘FRIEND IN NEED’ DePiano said DeLucia voluntarily returned all the files to the court. He also voluntarily advised the Statewide Grievance Committee of his alleged misdeeds, according to DePiano. DePiano’s past clients include Kenneth Curtis, who, in 1999, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter in the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Curtis initially claimed he was incompetent to stand trial because of a self-imposed gunshot wound to his head, but his case fueled widespread media coverage a decade later when it was reported that he was successfully attending college. DeLucia, his lawyer stated, “enjoys an excellent reputation among his colleagues and his clients.” Two attorneys who have opposed DeLucia, however, said he has made “enemies” with several members of the bar due to his often inexplicable combativeness when litigating cases. Furthermore, they predicted that many attorneys who would overlook similar misconduct by another lawyer will see to it that DeLucia doesn’t get away with a slap on the wrist. “A lot of people are looking at this as what-goes-around-comes-around,” said one of the attorneys, who wished to remain anonymous. DePiano, however, said such sentiments are likely the result of DeLucia’s “zealous” representation of his clients. “Joe is an excellent, skillful trial lawyer. He has always been an extremely hard worker, devoted to his clients and to the practice of law,” said Miller Rosnick senior partner Harold L. Rosnick. “Although, clearly, no one else at our firm had any knowledge of the underlying acts, we believe in the axiom that ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed.’ We intend to assist and support Joe in any manner that we can with his present problem.” “We are confident,” Rosnick added, “that Joe has taken all necessary and appropriate steps required of him at this time.” Sources say that the firm has expressed its apologies to lawyers involved in cases that DeLucia removed from the clerk’s office. Among his more notable cases, DeLucia, who was admitted to the bar in 1990, represented a woman who sued a 9-year-old Wallingford Little League pitcher in 1996 after she was struck in the face with a baseball thrown by the boy while warming up.

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