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Stephen Reich, the New York lawyer hired by the Connecticut House Select Committee of Inquiry to oversee the impeachment investigation of Gov. John G. Rowland, is already making new law in that state. Reich is a partner in the New York office of Los Angeles-based Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. Although admitted to practice law in New York and the District of Columbia, Reich is not licensed in Connecticut — a fact that exposed him to a charge of unauthorized practice of law for his work with the committee. So Reich, working with staff counsel for the House Democrats and Republicans, entered an emergency petition on Feb. 17 for pro hac vice admission to the state bar. That petition was formally granted after a Friday hearing. The issue is of particular concern in the Connecticut legal community because the House of Delegates of the Connecticut Bar Association in January voted down a proposal to make it easier for out-of-state attorneys to represent Connecticut clients on a limited basis. With Reich’s successful petition, the advent of pro hac vice admission for non-litigation work now has a foothold in Connecticut, skirting the vote of the bar. It is that admission, however, that has raised eyebrows. Such temporary passes to practice law have only been granted in cases where a lawyer was litigating a case in a courtroom, and there is a question whether Reich’s admission is, indeed, valid. “I’m not aware of any other instances [except for litigation] in which pro hac vice admissions have been granted,” said Connecticut Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark Dubois, who is charged with overseeing unauthorized practice of law allegations. Indeed, Section 2-16 of the general provisions of the Connecticut Superior Court rules say that admission may be granted for “the presentation of a cause of appeal in any court of this state.” Reich is not expected to appear in any court. Nonetheless, Richard D. Tulisano, chief of staff for the House Democratic caucus, and Mary Anne O’Neill, chief counsel for the House Republicans, petitioned Hartford Superior Court Chief Administrative Judge John J. Langenbach to admit Reich pro hac vice, because he “may be required to engage in the practice of law in Connecticut.” “The issue was raised by your paper,” said Tulisano, referring to a Feb. 16 Connecticut Law Tribune article. He said that legal researchers for the legislature “decided it was a legitimate concern, or could become a legitimate concern.” The hiring of two high-profile, out-of-state lawyers in the impeachment inquiry over Rowland is highlighting the current confusion over unauthorized practice. Connecticut’s unauthorized practice of law statute is regarded as both sweeping and rigid, providing criminal penalties and contempt-of-court liability for anyone practicing law without a valid Connecticut license. Under court Practice Book rules, lawyers involved in a courtroom trial can apply for pro hac vice status, but no similar flexibility is available, even on a temporary basis, for lawyers involved in transactional work or who dispense legal advice outside of court. Or so it seemed until last week. Langenbach issued what he called a “hybrid” pro hac vice approval for Reich to practice before the legislature. The pro hac vice rule allows an out-of-state lawyer to participate in “a cause or appeal in any court of this state.” Langenbach had to stretch the rule, which makes no mention of legal work for the legislature, or before administrative tribunals, transactional work or giving legal advice. Reich’s admission requires him to be supervised by Tulisano and Mary Anne O’Neill. He must also register with the Statewide Grievance Committee, and pay both the $75 annual Client Security Fund fee as well as the $450 annual occupational tax. Reich’s petition was unusual also in that it was filed and approved quickly and quietly. No notice was provided to Rowland’s in-house counsel, Ross Garber, to his personal lawyer, William Dow III, or to Disciplinary Counsel Dubois. Dubois said notice is not required by statute, since pro hac vice admission has only been sought when two sides are litigating against each other, and each is already assumed to know of the request. Dubois said he is currently researching UPL issues that the impeachment investigation is thrusting to the fore, but has reached no conclusions. Garber said he does not oppose Reich’s temporary admission. Under court rules, any licensed attorney or person subject to a subpoena can challenge a pro hac vice admission. The impeachment inquiry committee had anticipated that if Reich signed its subpoenas, without being at least provisionally an officer of the Connecticut courts, it could be grounds for motions to quash. Instead, the committee co-chairs, both Connecticut lawyers, will sign the subpoenas. In 1986, Rhode Island Chief Justice Joseph Bevilacqua was investigated for impeachable offenses, although he resigned before the impeachment panel brought formal charges. That state’s pro hac vice rules then were identical to Connecticut’s current rules limiting temporary admissions only before courts on litigation matters. Similarly, two non-Rhode Island counsel were hired. Although no one objected at the time, Rhode Island’s rules were broadened shortly after the impeachment hearings concluded. Gov. Rowland also recently hired a high-powered out-of-state attorney, Seth P. Waxman, a partner in the blue-chip D.C. firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering. Waxman said he doesn’t intend to practice law in Connecticut, would probably not be traveling to Connecticut, and was unlikely to appear in courts or hearings.

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