Angry that a former client sued him, 86-year-old New Britain-based attorney Jason Pearl released the woman’s psychiatric medical records online to “embarrass” her, according to a court ruling.
Now, that action led a Superior Court judge to suspend Pearl from practicing law for two years, pausing—and possibly halting—a decadeslong career.
Read the full ruling here:
On Jan. 24, six weeks after Veronica Perakos sued Pearl, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel said Pearl electronically filed a motion in limine in the malpractice action against him seeking to have Perakos declared “unfit to testify due to her psychiatric history, medical commitment, conservatorship and untruthfulness.” On the same day, Pearl e-filed a notice of compliance and attached Perakos’ mental health records without Perakos’ permission, according to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
“The mental health records were accessible by the public once they were uploaded and e-filed in the legal malpractice action,” according to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s presentment against Pearl. The legal malpractice action proceeded to a hearing in damages and, ultimately, a judgment for Perakos,
In her Aug. 7 order, New Britain Superior Court Judge Joan Alexander said Pearl “engaged in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice” by releasing the records of Perakos, who had brought a legal malpractice claim against the attorney stemming from a foreclosure action. Alexander also said Pearl’s conduct “was retaliatory and intended to embarrass his former client.” Alexander also ordered Pearl to successfully complete 20 hours of legal ethics training.
The decision in the Pearl case was one of several ethics rulings released Friday by the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel.
Pearl, who is acting as his own attorney, did not respond to a request for comment Monday. He has been a Connecticut attorney practicing in family law since 1956.
Perakos who had retained Pearl on several previous occasions, most recently hired him to defend a special assessment levied by her Branford-based condominium association on her property. According to her December 2014 lawsuit against Pearl, she had questioned a special assessment the association had imposed for siding. In May 2013, the court entered a foreclosure judgement against Perakos, who then lost the title to her $400,000 condominium over a debt worth only slightly more than 5 percent of its value.
Perakos said she commenced legal action against Pearl because he was allegedly negligent in representing her. Among other things, the Perakos complaint says, Pearl did not properly communicate with her; failed to notify her that she was at risk of future foreclosure if she did not pay the condominium’s special assessment levy on a monthly basis; and failed to require that Perakos be canvassed by the court in order to assure she understood the court’s ruling.
According to the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel’s March 20 presentment against Pearl, the attorney had obtained Perakos’ medical records from her while representing her in another legal matter. The psychiatric medical records dated back to about 2006.
In court filings, Pearl denied that he did not obtain Perakos’ permission to e-file her mental health records. He also denied breaching his confidentiality agreement with Perakos, or using the records to gain an advantage in the malpractice suit.
But the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel saw things differently, and wrote that releasing the medical records violated several sections of the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys.
“The respondent sought to use confidential information of his former client to his advantage in the lawsuit against him,” it wrote.
Soon after, the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel presented the case to Alexander, who issued her ruling in early August.
This is Pearl’s latest disciplinary action. He was suspended for 120 days in 2013 for an unrelated case in which he failed to comply with a random auditing of his IOLTA, or interest on lawyer trust account. Under Practice Book rules, Connecticut lawyers are required to keep records of client fund accounts up to date. The lawyer’s personal funds aren’t allowed to be commingled with client funds and trust accounts must be interest-bearing.