New Britain lawyer Jason Pearl has been suspended for 120 days for not complying with random auditing of his IOLTA account.
"His account was selected for random audit by the Statewide Grievance Committee," said Beth Baldwin, Beth Baldwin, Assistant Disciplinary Counsel. "The audit was begun, but there was not full compliance."
A judge suspended him in June. All parties are scheduled to be back in court Oct. 4 to see what progress he has made.
Pearl said he did nothing wrong. In a phone interview, he said he kept his accounting records in order, as required by law. "I keep my books meticulously, but not in the format prescribed by the committee," he said. "They had it in for me, and they got me."
According to court records, there were several orders from the judge asking that Pearl comply with an audit, Baldwin said. One order is dated Nov. 16, another Dec. 19. "He did not comply with either order," Baldwin said.
A trial date was set for March 5 when the judge found "by clear and convincing evidence he committed misconduct by not complying with the audit," Baldwin said.
On March 5, the judge gave him another order to comply. "He had to provide all records by June 4," Baldwin said.
Pearl did not and during a court date of June 19, the judge suspended him for 120 days for not complying.
The next court date on this matter is set for Oct. 4.
"I don't know what our position will be at that time," Baldwin said.
Baldwin said that it is not often that a lawyer will land in court for not complying with an audit. "We have very few matters that result in court for non-compliance," Baldwin said.
Under Practice Book rules, lawyers in this state are required to keep records of client fund accounts up to date. The lawyer's personal funds are not allowed to be co-mingled with client funds and trust accounts must be interest bearing. Records must show all withdrawals and deposits and include a running balance.
Created under Practice Book 2-27 of the Superior Court General Provisions, the random audit program was adopted in 2007 in response to problems with lawyer trust accounts two years prior, when about $20 million in client's funds went missing.
Under the rules, lawyers or law firms maintaining one or more client trust accounts are required to cooperate with any audit. Those that don't cooperate risk being charged with professional misconduct.
Since the program started, 816 attorney client accounts have been audited. About 30 of the audits have resulted in disciplinary cases since 2007, and the numbers have been decreasing in recent years.
A computer program randomly picks account numbers from all of the 40,000 client trust accounts that are registered with the state. The audits typically take place in the lawyers' offices.
If bookkeeping errors are found, grievance officials will issue a report card, or check list of corrections for the lawyer to make.
One of the first cases of an attorney being disciplined as the result of a random audit was in 2007. When auditors tried to enter Donald P. Reney Jr.'s office, officials said he locked the doors and turned off the lights in his office. Eventually, Reney agreed to comply with the audits. But only after his law license was briefly suspended, records show.