A Bridgeport-based attorney with a history of sanctions by the court has been suspended by a Superior Court judge from practicing law for 120 days for using profanity in court, lecturing opposing counsel and the court and allegedly making up testimony on which she relied.
In his 20-page Sept. 20 ruling against Madonna Sacco, Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher, who oversees the complex litigation docket, admonished Sacco for what he said was her consistent disruptions of court proceedings.
Read the full ruling here:
In one instance, Sacco apparently forgot she had a lapel microphone on in court and in explaining her strategy to co-counsel said: “F— him. I am going to give him such a f—— hard time.” It’s not clear if Sacco was talking about opposing counsel or the judge.
“This doesn’t mean this opinion is about punishing members of the bar for their private use of this mindlessly overused profanity,” Moukawsher wrote. “But, when wicked words betoken wicked deeds they are a matter of action. Here, those words reflect what attorney Sacco was doing and would continue to do: willfully disrupt a proceeding in court. Indeed, they reflect what attorney Sacco appears to have done and has been sanctioned for six times for over nearly a 20-year period.”
Sacco, currently a partner with Heidell Pittoni Murphy & Bach, has been practicing law in Connecticut for 33 years. The Connecticut Law Tribune reached out to Sacco at her law firm and her home, but she did not respond to requests for comment. It’s not clear if Sacco is being represented by another attorney in this matter.
Heidell Pittoni Murphy & Bach on Monday issued a statement saying, “We cannot comment on the recent decision, but we are committed to ensuring that all attorneys in our firm adhere to the strictest professional standards.”
The latest sanction stemmed from a dispute between Sacco and opposing counsel in a medical malpractice case. The two sides had a contentious dispute over a deposition and asked the court to intervene.
Moukawsher’s ruling notes Sacco arrived late for the Oct. 31, 2017, hearing and “repeatedly interrupted the court and disputed petty things like whose copy of the deposition transcript the court should read.”
“She bluntly insisted that the court had no authority to decide whether a witness had fairly answered a question. Then, she set to squabbling in front of the court over the facial expression of her opposing counsel,” the judge wrote.
The attorney was also “belligerently interrupting the court and earning her first warning from the court to correct her behavior,” according to the ruling.
“Finally silent, Sacco turned to physical antics, with her hands on her hips striking a defiant pose, head down shaking her head at length displaying disgusted disagreement while the court spoke,” Moukawsher continued. “This earned her a second admonition to stop and stand there like a professional.”
But the veteran attorney didn’t stop, according to the ruling.
Instead, Sacco continued interrupting the court, causing Moukawsher to admonish her five more times during the hearing. In his final admonition, the judge said he might have to take action against Sacco if her behavior did not improve. In one instance, the judge wrote, official transcripts showed Sacco made up testimony on which she had relied.
According to the judge, the attorney “misrepresented the deposition record to [the] court, stating that the witness had not refused a hypothetical, but merely had resisted assumptions because an opinion could not be derived from that fact alone.”
A look at the transcript, however, showed Sacco had made up the testimony, according to the judge.
About a month later, in November 2017, Sacco returned to court in the medical malpractice case, in which she represented Dr. Erica Kesselman. But that court hearing also deteriorated, according to Moukawsher.
“Rather than wipe the slate clean, attorney Sacco renewed her complaints from the last time and refused to sit down,” the judge wrote. “She lectured opposing counsel on the position of the microphone and demanded to sit in the witness box next to the witness, while refusing to accept the court’s ruling that she could not, [and was] bickering and sniping at the court instead.”
During that same session, Sacco refused orders by the court to sit down and continued to “berate and argue with the court,” the judge wrote.
Moukawsher outlined each of the previous sanctions against Sacco. The first one was 21 years ago in which Sacco objected and interrupted numerous times. On another occasion, the attorney was found to have “improperly and repeatedly disrupted the deposition with speaking objections and impermissible witness instructions.”
Moukawsher continued: “Attorney Sacco has known of her own misconduct for over 20 years. She has fought with opposing counsel, interrupted their questions, peppered depositions with objections designed primarily to disrupt them, raised frivolous claims about testimony and now she has done the same thing in front of this court.”
Sacco could appeal the suspension to the Connecticut Appellate Court. If there is no appeal, the 120-day suspension would become effective Oct. 11. Moukawsher said the court would consider reducing the suspension to 90 days upon satisfactory evidence that the attorney received at least 20 hours of “suitable counseling through sources recommended by the Connecticut Bar Association or a qualified physician.”
The judge’s decision was sent to the Connecticut Statewide Grievance Committee’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel, which could recommend additional disciplinary actions.