Connecticut’s Statewide Grievance Committee announced disciplinary action Thursday against six attorneys, including four suspensions, one resignation and one disbarment.
Here is a look at the attorneys, listed alphabetically, whose ethics charges led to disciplinary action in May.
The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel suspended Hamden criminal defense attorney Jeffrey Cohen for 30 days for professional misconduct. Cohen was suspended May 13 and will automatically be reinstated to practice on June 12.
According to its May 10 presentment, the OCDC reported Cohen allegedly made misrepresentations to a judge to obtain a continuance in a case. The disciplinary counsel cited Cohen for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct. They include one rule for misconduct and engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
The OCDC has accepted the resignation of Hartford attorney Richard Gordon. Gordon was accused of professional misconduct, most recently related to his representation of Eunice Smith in an arbitration against her employer, the Connecticut Department of Corrections, for wrongful termination.
According to its March 1 presentment, the OCDC reported Gordon did not communicate sufficiently with Smith and did not provide her with copies of the documents to be filed in court.
The presentment stated Gordon “failed to provide Smith with diligent representation by withdrawing her appeal without her consent prior to obtaining an executed settlement agreement between the parties and a release from the client.” The presentment also says Smith never agreed to the terms of the proposed settlement, as reflected in numerous emails.
The SGC’s reviewing committee also noted in the presentment that Gordon had been disciplined at least three times in the last five years on other matters.
The OCDC has placed East Haven-based criminal defense attorney Corey Heiks on an interim suspension, effectively immediately.
The interim suspension follows a grievance complaint that Sohan Desai filed in 2017. Desai alleged unethical conduct with regard to Heiks’ representation of him in several criminal matters. The presentment does not specify the unethical conduct, and details were unavailable by press time.
The OCDC writes in its April 24 presentment against Heiks that the attorney was ordered to take continuing legal education courses in connection with the Desai incident, but that Heiks never responded to the SGC’s letters for verification that he took those courses.
The OCDC also reprimanded Heiks in its March listings of attorney discipline. That case stemmed from a lawsuit filed on behalf of his client, Robert Salatto, in a criminal matter. Local grievance panels found Heiks violated several RPCs, including one pertaining to competence related to his representation of Salatto.
The OCDC has placed Milford attorney Thomas Lengyel on interim suspension from the practice of law, effective May 31, until further notice of the court.
The interim suspension stems from Lengyel’s being late to court for a hearing on whether he had completed community service in the time allotted related to his 2017 sentencing for illegal operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol/drugs. Lengyel received six months of jail, execution suspended (meaning he did not serve jail time); 18 months’ probation and 100 hours of community service.
In court papers, Lengyel wrote: “I now and hereby apologize to the court for being late. There is no excuse here, and I take full accountability for this. I have failed myself, at the core, and this is my livelihood that I am damaging.”
The OCDC has suspended Branford personal injury lawyer Karen Souza for practicing law for 42 months, effective May 2.
The three-and-a-half-year suspension stems from a December 2018 grievance complaint that Alan Silver of the Silver Law Firm filed against Souza, who had worked at the firm as an associate.
According to the OCDC, the law firm discovered Souza had forged the firm’s signature on insurance settlement checks for the law firm’s cases, negotiated those checks and endorsed them with her own signature, and deposited them into her own personal bank account. Souza has since repaid the firm $152,000.
Jodi Zils Gagne:
The OCDC has disbarred Bristol attorney and town councilor Jodi Zils Gagne for 12 years.
The disbarment follows a 46-month prison term for Zils Gagne for stealing more than $169,000 from clients while she served as a court-appointed conservator, tasked with overseeing the financial or personal affairs of incapacitated adults.