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The Connecticut House of Representatives’ Select Committee of Inquiry is in a pitched public battle with Gov. John G. Rowland. Behind the scenes, however, the tension is nearly as great between Steven F. Reich and members of Connecticut’s white-collar criminal defense bar, whose feathers Reich has been ruffling since being retained as the committee’s special counsel. A New York attorney whose curriculum vitae includes work with the Senate minority counsel during the Clinton impeachment, Reich caused his first stir by not being a Connecticut attorney. At least one prominent defense attorney challenged his pro hac vice admission to the Connecticut Bar. The Manatt, Phelps & Phillips lawyer also didn’t help matters when he failed to extend a number of professional courtesies customary in Connecticut legal circles. Now, say a number of attorneys, disgruntlement with Reich has developed into full-blown animosity, especially from those whose clients face a federal grand jury probe. For many, the hard feelings are the result of a lack of simple courtesies, such as calling defense attorneys to inform them that subpoenas against their clients were coming down. Instead, their clients were personally served with the subpoenas, which left their lawyers at a disadvantage, especially when the subpoenas demanded compliance within 24 or 48 hours. Hugh F. Keefe, of Lynch, Traub, Keefe and Errante in New Haven, Conn., openly admits his beef with Reich and the committee. “New York lawyers have a poor reputation in Connecticut and there is a reason for it,” he said last week. “These people have done a lot to perpetuate that reputation.” Keefe represents Peter Ellef, Rowland’s former co-chief of staff. His challenge of Reich’s pro hac vice admission is pending before the state appellate court. “There is very little trust. I blame this partially on him [Reich] and partially on his clients,” Keefe said. “They have made promises they didn’t keep and there’s been a complete disregard for the rights and reputations of witnesses.” Richard R. Brown, of Hartford, Conn.’s Brown, Paindiris & Scott, butted heads with the committee’s investigators when they wanted to interview his client, Marc S. Ryan, Rowland’s longtime budget chief and secretary of the Office of Policy and Management. “I wanted to get this thing postponed for a week because I was going to be out of state,” he said in an interview. “I said, ‘Unless you guys are going to wrap this up, give me the one week, so I can personally be there with my client.’” No dice. That meant bringing another lawyer at Brown’s firm up to speed — one Ryan didn’t know. Adding insult to injury, the committee ended up postponing Ryan’s testimony for a few days, but not enough for Brown to attend, he said. “In fairness to the committee, they have been asked to do in six months what the feds have been doing for years,” Brown noted. “They don’t have the experience, they don’t have the coordination and they don’t know the members of the Connecticut Bar the way the federal prosecutors do. If you are familiar with the personalities, you can do things smoothly,” he said. “That’s why Dick Brown doesn’t practice law in New York. Maybe New York lawyers shouldn’t practice law here.” While many attorneys have echoed Keefe and Brown’s sentiments, Reich, who spent years working for Democrats during the independent counsel investigation and subsequent impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, said the “atmosphere” in Connecticut is “significantly better” than it was in Washington, D.C. “The defense bar is doing their job well and raising issues they should raise,” he said. “It’s inevitable, I think, in a system where there are competing interests, there will be differences of opinions.” Two attorneys representing clients in the investigation, Stanley A. Twardy Jr., of Day, Berry & Howard’s Stamford, Conn., office, and James W. Bergenn, of Hartford-based Shipman & Goodwin, told The Connecticut Law Tribune they heard similar complaints, but personally have none. Twardy, who hasn’t named his clients publicly, said he’s had little trouble with Reich, his investigators or the committee. Bergenn reiterated Twardy’s remarks, adding that he expected Reich and his investigators would push hard. “They have a large New York firm approach, which is not common in Connecticut,” he said. “That creates some discomfort, presumably on each side. I think they expected people to say ‘How high?’ when they said, ‘Jump,’ and we did.” Bergenn, who represents the prominent New Britain, Conn., architectural firm Kaestle Boos among others embroiled in the federal corruption probe of the Rowland administration, said that earned his firm some credibility and allowed it to scale back subsequent broad and overly burdensome subpoena requests. “The situation itself creates certain tension by virtue of the great importance that all attorneys place on what going on,” he added. ” … In the end, 90 percent of the ruffled feathers were going to be there by the breadth and intensity of the investigation. Ten percent, at most 20 percent, [is due to the lack of] courtesies. But, the courtesies become emblematic.” Arthur J. O’Neill, the Select Committee’s Republican co-chairman, said any doubts he had about hiring an out-of state firm were dispelled when new lawsuits were being filed against his panel each day. “We had as many as 12 or 13 lawyers working on this some days,” he noted. “That we needed a deep, deep bench was obvious. A smaller firm might have been overwhelmed.”

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