It may not have sounded like the description of a man who was sent to federal prison for seven years as part of a municipal corruption scandal. One attorney called former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim a “wonderful, delightful, decent, honest guy.” Another Bridgeport attorney, Frank Riccio, characterized Ganim as a gentleman and said he trusts the former mayor “as much as my own son.”
Based on largely positive testimony from members of the bar, acquaintances and family members, the Standing Committee on Recommendations for Admission to the Bar in Fairfield County last week recommended that Ganim have his license to practice law reinstated. The members noted that Ganim has taken all the steps mandated by a Superior Court judge and concluded that he is “presently fit to practice law.”
A three-judge panel appointed by Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers will make the final ruling. Ganim’s lawyer, Harold Rosnick, said the next step will be a hearing before the judges. The final decision could take months to reach.
“It was an extensive, deliberative process,” Rosnick said of the proceedings involving the Fairfield County bar admissions committee. “We are pleased and humbled by the unanimous recommendation by the standing committee. Other than that, we have no further comment in that the process is still pending.”
Ganim, who is currently working as a paralegal at his family’s The Ganim Law Firm in Bridgeport, was elected to five terms as Bridgeport mayor starting in 1991. He was ultimately charged with using his position to leverage kickbacks from city contractors; prosecutors said he collected more than $500,000 in cash, in addition to meals, clothing, wine and home renovations.
Ganim was convicted of 16 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud, bribery and filing false income tax returns. He was sentenced July 1, 2003 and released from prison on July 19, 2010.
Last year, Ganim formally filed his bar readmission application. He was ordered by a judge to complete a minimum of 12 hours of continuing legal education, at least six of which had to be in professional responsibility. He had to pay all fines and make restitution stemming from his conviction. And he had to complete at least 100 hours of community service.
The Fairfield County standing committee, made up of five attorneys and headed by Douglas P. Mahoney, of Bridgeport’s Tremont & Sheldon, said Ganim did, in fact, complete the CLE, pay $150,000 in fines and complete the community service.
The committee held four hearings on Ganim’s application between May 2011 and March 2012. Ganim was represented by attorney Rosnick. Also in attendance was Patricia King, who represented the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel; she now is the state’s chief disciplinary counsel. Thirteen witnesses testified on Ganim’s behalf, including veteran attorneys, Bridgeport business owners, a church pastor and family members.
Robert Kolesnik, who has practiced law in Connecticut for 45 years, testified that he has known Ganim for more than a decade, and that Ganim worked as a paralegal in Kolesnik’s law firm after his release from prison. Kolesnik called Ganim trustworthy, saying that he would “trust him with my life”.
A federal probation officer, Chris Rogers, said he saw no reason why Ganim should be barred from practicing law. “I mean, he has done everything that I have asked him, had no issues with him. So he has been compliant, no issues,” Rogers testified, according to the committee report.
King, however, objected to Ganim’s reinstatement. She noted a web site on which Ganim offered himself up as a “federal prison consultant.”
“What happened to me should never happen to you or anyone,” the web site read as of October 2011. It went onto offer help from someone who has “survived the onslaught.”
“In October of 2001, I was targeted and indicted by the Federal Government on various white collar crimes,” the web site read. Ganim suggested on the web site that he was “wrongly” charged.
King said the web site language, which has since been changed, suggested that Ganim is not remorseful for the acts that landed him in prison. Ganim responded by telling the bar examining committee: “I had a fair trial, I had good lawyers, I had a fair judge and I live and stand by the result, I accept the verdict, I was found guilty. I accept that, I acknowledge that. I took an appeal, I lost.”
The Fairfield County committee recommended that Ganim be reinstated when his federal supervised release ends in July 2013. Ganim has promised to complete 1,800 hours of pro bono work in his first year if readmitted. The committee also recommended that Ganim be supervised by a court-appointed attorney for one year.
Last week, King said that her office gets from eight to 12 requests annually to reinstate lawyers, and most of those are granted without opposition. She said it was too soon for her to say what, if any, further action her office might take in Ganim’s case. “The three-judge panel hasn’t acted yet, so it would be premature to comment,” King said.
She said the hearing before the three judges could include further testimony, but that most such hearings don’t include presentation of evidence. She said the judges generally look at material that’s been submitted in support of the reinstatement application and determine whether the bar examining committee has made “a fair investigation of the facts.”
The Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel has the authority to appeal the panel’s ruling, she said.•