A partner at a major law firm found himself on the wrong side of the law when Simsbury Police arrested him for domestic violence after an altercation with his fiancee.
Robinson & Cole Connecticut partner and prominent land-use attorney Dwight Merriam faces third-degree assault and disorderly conduct charges.
Merriam is a member of the Connecticut Law Tribune’s editorial board. Wednesday night, he said he and his fiancee had sought counseling following his arrest one day earlier and had met with the court’s Family Services Unit in Enfield.
We’re “working on getting past the trauma of finding ourselves in the judicial system,” he wrote in a statement. He said he and his fiancee were back at home together and wanted their privacy respected.
But news of his arrest put the spotlight on Robinson & Cole, an Am Law 200 firm with nine offices in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Florida and California. The partner is one of about 200 attorneys at the firm that placed 183rd on The American Lawyer’s 2017 Am Law 200 ranking of firms based on size.
Robinson & Cole did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Merriam is 72. He is a Yale-educated litigator who founded Robinson & Cole’s Land Use Group in 1978, and is a member of the firm’s Real Estate and Development Group, according to its website. He is a veteran attorney with more than four decades of experience representing property owners, developers, governments and individuals on zoning appeals, condemnation actions, cases involving the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, and other matters. He is a sought-after speaker who makes regular presentations to the International Municipal Lawyers Association.
Merriam is also part of the faculty at Qunnipiac University School of Law, where he holds the position of “distinguished practitioner-in-residence, property law.” He teaches land use and property law. He has published more than 200 articles and 13 books including “The Complete Guide to Zoning.” He is also the senior co-author of “Planning and Control of Land Development,” a casebook on land-use law.
But he grabbed headlines this week for his private troubles, not his professional accolades.
The Hartford Courant reported Merriam chased his fiancee around the house, assaulted her with a frying pan and left a softball-sized red mark with purple undertones on her hip. It also reported Merriam told police the incident involved only a verbal argument and suggested his spouse had a financial motive.
The newspaper didn’t name the woman but noted she is Russian. It reported the woman told police she would sign a prenuptial agreement to protect Merriam’s assets if the couple married and that the attorney would pay her $50,000 to return to Russia if they separated. The woman said Merriam refused to pay her the money, causing the argument to escalate, according to the paper.
The pending nuptials would be at least the third time Merriam married. A New York Times wedding announcement from 1995 showed he married attorney Susan Manning Standish after a divorce.
Read the arrest report: