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What began in 1994 as a seemingly routine workers’ compensation claim has embroiled Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s office in lengthy litigation, internal strife, and rare grievance proceedings against two members of his legal staff. In one of those cases, the Statewide Grievance Committee last month reprimanded Assistant Attorney General Matthew B. Beizer, finding fault with his tactics in defending the University of Connecticut Medical Center against Wendy John’s workers’ compensation claim. The other grievance complaint — brought by Blumenthal’s office against Loida John-Nicholson, a former assistant attorney general and Wendy John’s sister — was dropped after a reviewing panel found no clear and convincing evidence to support allegations that John-Nicholson misappropriated Beizer’s confidential computer files to aid her sibling’s case. John-Nicholson’s lawyer, Karen Lee Torre, said both decisions vindicate her client, who claimed she was grieved after complaining to her superiors about Beizer’s misconduct. ‘A WELCOMED STATEMENT’ Torre, of the Law Offices of Karen Lee Torre in New Haven, Conn., touted the SGC’s decision in John v. Beizer as “a breath of fresh air.” Opposing counsel, she asserted, often are reluctant to bring grievances against AAGs who flout ethics rules. “This decision is a welcomed statement from the Statewide Grievance Committee that all lawyers will be held to the same standard of conduct” no matter who their employer is, Torre declared. Both Blumenthal, through his press department, and Hartford, Conn., attorney Louis N. George, who represented Beizer before the SGC, declined comment. George, of Hassett & George, said his client is still considering an appeal to the Superior Court. The complaint against Beizer stems from Wendy John’s workers’ compensation claim, which she made after allegedly falling backward off a lab chair while employed by the Farmington Medical Center, and injuring her neck, back and right knee. The state contested the compensability of her injuries. In 1996, Beizer, then a member of Blumenthal’s workers’ compensation unit, asked John’s attorney, Francis P. Cipriano, for his client’s authorization to obtain copies of her medical records, according to a SGC reviewing committee’s factual findings. In response, Cipriano sent Beizer a letter outlining the AAG’s earlier stated agreement to provide him, as a condition of John’s consent, with any of the medical records that the AG’s office received. Such agreements are standard between opposing counsel, Torre maintained. Beizer, the review panel found, never contacted Cipriano to dispute the letter’s terms. With John’s authorization, Beizer acquired records from Holyoke Hospital, where, roughly two months prior to the underlying accident, John received treatment for injuries similar to the ones alleged in her workers’ comp claim. Prior to a July 1997 hearing in the case, Beizer asked his supervisor if he was obligated to provide Cipriano with a copy of John’s records. The supervisor told Beizer that “no lawyer worth his salt” would turn over the documents to opposing counsel, if they were going to be used for impeachment purposes, according to the review panel’s finding. Beizer, however, failed to alert his boss of Cipriano’s letter. $300,000 SETTLEMENT Over Cipriano’s objections, Workers’ Compensation Commissioner George Waldron allowed Beizer to question John about the treatment she received at Holyoke Hospital. On November 12 1997, Waldron dismissed John’s claim, finding her credibility was in question. In March 1999, the Compensation Review Board, however, overturned the decision, ruling that Beizer’s failure to give Cipriano a copy of the medical records denied John a fair opportunity to respond to evidence against her. Blumenthal’s office unsuccessfully challenged the decision to the state Appellate Court. In recommending Beizer’s reprimand, the review panel found his conduct to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. Dismissing the AG’s complaint against Loida John-Nicholson, the same three-member panel relied on Cipriano’s testimony that the former AAG never provided him confidential information regarding her sister’s case. John-Nicholson’s immediate supervisor at the AG’s office also testified that John-Nicholson complained to her about Beizer’s handling of the matter in an attempt to block his transfer to Blumenthal’s public safety/special revenue unit, where John-Nicholson had worked. In response to a state Freedom of Information request by The Connecticut Law Tribune, Blumenthal’s office confirmed that it paid John-Nicholson $148,000 to settle “several workers’ compensation and capacity to work claims.” In addition, it also paid her $152,000 for attorneys’ fees and costs, according to Associate Attorney General William B. Gundling’s October 16 letter to The Connecticut Law Tribune. Torre, however, contended that the $300,000 settlement came in response to legal claims arising from the grievance and state Ethics Commission complaints that Blumenthal’s office filed against John-Nicholson. (John-Nicholson prevailed before the Ethics Commission as well, her attorney said.) Torre declined to specify what claims John-Nicholson, now in private practice, made against her former employer. To date, the Office of the Attorney General also has been billed $104,393 in outside counsel fees racked up defending Beizer before the grievance committee, Gundling acknowledged.

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