The state Supreme Court has rejected a bid by former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim to regain his law license.
Ganim has been trying to regain his license after being released from prison in 2010 after serving seven years on corruption charges.
Initially, a panel of lawyers, the Fairfield County Standing Committee on Recommendations to the Bar, said the former Democratic mayor should be able to resume practicing. The standing committee had heard glowing testimony from a number of friends, acquaintances and attorneys about Ganim’s post-incarceration conduct and his character.
But a panel of three Superior Court judges questioned the sincerity of Ganim’s contrition and rejected the standing committee’s recommendation that Ganim, whose family has a law firm, have his license reinstated.
Ganim took the matter to the Supreme Court, where his lawyer claimed that the three-judge panel improperly failed to
defer to the standing committee’s recommendation, misinterpreted the standing committee’s report, committed legal improprieties when reviewing the report, and wrongfully determined that some of the standing committee’s findings
The justices ruled that the three-judge panel committed no improprieties and sided with Patricia King, the state’s chief disciplinary counsel, who had argued that Ganim had shown no remorse and had done little else to merit having his law license returned. The justices, however, said the court system might see things differently in other cases.
“We acknowledge that a criminal conviction is not an absolute bar to regaining a license to practice law and that, in Connecticut, no statute or court rule directly answers the question of what period of time constitutes an adequate period of rehabilitation for an individual with a record of misconduct comparable to the defendants,” Chief Justice Chase Rogers wrote for the court.
“We are confident, however, that in the present case, the defendant has not demonstrated a period of exemplary behavior persisting for a sufficient period of time to offset his transgressions and, accordingly, to provide the necessary assurance that he may once again be entrusted with the practice of law. Consequently, we hold that the trial court properly concluded that the standing committee abused its discretion when it determined that the defendant was presently fit to practice law and recommended his reinstatement.”
In oral arguments last fall, Ganim’s lawyer, Harold Rosnick, told the justices his client has shown remorse and deserves to get back his law license. “Every major religion believes in redemption and rehabilitation,” Rosnick said. “He paid a severe price. He accepted the consequences…He is taking responsibility.”
But King told the court that Ganim has never acknowledged that he committed crimes in office and should not his law license returned. “He committed a four-year crime spree while mayor of Bridgeport,” she said.
Ganim was convicted on 16 corruption charges, including extortion, bribery and racketeering. He was sentenced in 2003 to nine years in prison for steering city contracts in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in expensive wine, custom clothes, cash and home improvements. His sentence was reduced by a year for participating in a drug treatment program.
The three-judge panel took note of the extent of the charges against Ganim when it issues its opinion.
“Allowing an applicant to be readmitted to the practice of law following a conviction on 16 counts of racketeering, conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud, bribery and filing false income tax returns without any apology … simply would set the bar for readmission too low in the state, and we are unwilling to do that,” the panel wrote.
The Supreme Court also took note of the long list of allegations against Ganim, spending several pages of its 26-page decision chronicling the corruption in Bridgeport under Ganim’s leadership in precise detail.
“To practice law,” the court wrote, “an individual must possess not only legal competence and professional capability, but also good moral character.”
Since Ganim’s release from prison in 2010, he has worked as a legal assistant at his family’s Bridgeport law firm and has run a consulting business for others facing federal prison.