An East Haddam attorney who was sentenced to one year in prison, but saw his sentence reduced to 30 days and two years of probation for two separate drunken-driving offenses, has now been suspended from practicing law in Connecticut.
The Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel had recommended that Paul Buhl be suspended from practicing law for two years over his criminal convictions, which also included operating a motor vehicle without registration. In his April 12 ruling, Middletown Superior Court Judge Jose Suarez scolded Buhl for not showing remorse.
“The factors that weigh heavily on the court are the defendant’s two separate convictions for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, the conviction for operating a motor vehicle under suspension, the defendant’s refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct, and the defendant’s lack of remorse,” Suarez ruled.
The judge entered a retroactive suspension from the date of Buhl’s convictions in July 2017 until the end of his probation, slated for September 2019.
Buhl can then apply for reinstatement. He was one of several attorneys facing ethics charges in April, according to information released Tuesday by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel. All three charges against him in the criminal case were misdemeanors.
Buhl is currently under an administrative suspension on an unrelated case over his failure to pay his client security fund fee, which reimburses people who lose money because of attorney misconduct. The fund is financed by a fee collected from each attorney admitted to practice law in the state.
Buhl began practicing law in Connecticut in 1987. He acted as his own attorney, and initially told the Connecticut Law Tribune he’d be willing to discuss the matter, but was not immediately available by press time. Buhl pleaded nolo contendere, or no contest, to all three charges.
But his court pleadings seem to offer medical explanations. In his January 2018 motion to dismiss the disciplinary counsel’s presentment against him, Buhl said he told the counsel that one of the driving-under-the-influence charges was nolled “in the face of medical evidence.” In a footnote in his motion to dismiss, Buhl writes he could demonstrate that he consulted “with a physician about episodes of dizziness, confusion and disorientation he had been experiencing.” The footnote also states Buhl was found unconscious in his home, and that he spent 11 days in a hospital. “During that hospitalization the source of his problems was determined to be related to blood chemistry, which had been treated and has never recurred,” according to the filing.
Buhl also contends he believed his driver’s license had not been suspended at the time of his arrest. He then cited several past cases of attorneys arrested and charged with similar offenses or even felonies, and said that compared to many others, he was treated unfairly.
“Petitioner has cited no authority to support any discipline, let alone a suspension, other than in cases involving multiple felony convictions,” Buhl wrote.
The Buhl case was handled by then-Chief Disciplinary Counsel Karyl Carrasquilla. The chief disciplinary counsel post is now vacant as Carrasquilla was recently named a Superior Court judge. Brian Staines, assistant disciplinary counsel, told the Connecticut Law Tribune Wednesday that the case is now closed.