Divorce lawyer William Beslow has a clientele studded with celebrities and is known as the best in his field in New York. But none of that impressed a Connecticut judge who slapped him with nearly $35,000 in sanctions last week after he was accused of violating the rules to temporarily practice law here and spewing invective toward opposing attorneys.
In an unusual motion to revoke Beslow’s pro hac vice license, opposing counsel Guy Ferro of New Canaan and M. Hatcher “Reese” Norris of Hartford alleged Beslow was not truthful with the court concerning prior discipline.
The Connecticut Practice Book requires out-of-state lawyers to disclose any record of prior discipline in other courts before they are allowed a temporary license to practice here. Beslow, who secured a $55 million settlement for Swedish countess Marie-Douglas-David in her 2009 divorce from former United Technologies CEO George David, failed to do so, the lawyers alleged.
In an all-day hearing before Judge Lynda B. Munro in Middletown Superior Court, they also complained that he had subjected opposing counsel here to vicious rants.
Norris cited a May 2008 New York case in which judge Joan A. Madden ordered Beslow to pay a $500 fine to the New York Fund for Client Protection. The order was a sanction for filing a patently frivolous suit that sought $30,000 to replace an umbrella that the owner of a posh restaurant had loaned a model.
Beslow conceded he had not disclosed the matter when he moved for admission in George David’s divorce in 2009, the following year. He told Munro that the matter had been so widely publicized in the media he didn’t see a need to mention it in his application for pro hac vice admission.
In that case Beslow represented restaurateur Nello Balan, owner of the fashionable restaurant “Nello’s.” He was suing a model named Le Call because, allegedly, he loaned her an umbrella — a seemingly gallant gesture. The chivalry stopped after the umbrella was returned broken.
In Balan’s suit for intentionally inflicted emotional distress, he claimed it was a limited edition designer umbrella that would require a $30,000 purchase of patents to reproduce. The judge said the case smacked of a publicity stunt for the restaurant, dismissed the state suit and fined Beslow $500 as a disciplinary sanction.
In the David divorce, Beslow displayed an almost photographic memory for the factual minutiae of thousands of pages of deposition records. His client, the countess Marie Douglas-David, was seeking $99 million instead of the $45 million in UTC stock David had offered in his prenuptial agreement. She detailed an expensive lifestyle that included expenses of $53,000 a week, and Beslow displayed an impressive head for details.
The license at issue last week concerns Beslow’s services in the divorce case Jill Callahan v. James Callahan. Beslow’s local co-counsel on the case is Michael A. Meyers, of Fairfield’s Meyers, Breiner & Kent, representing the defendant husband.
The motion filed by Norris alleged Beslow engaged in verbally abusive conduct in the Stamford courthouse hallways in that case, yelling at New Canaan lawyer Janet Battey “so loudly that a judicial marshall had to approach [twice]to tell him his behavior was not appropriate behavior for a courthouse.”
Beslow’s diatribe, according to the motion, included yelling at Battey that “Connecticut lawyers are sleazy,” and that Battey, an associate in the firm of Marvin, Ferro, Barndollar & Roberts, is attorney Gaetano “Guy” Ferro’s pawn. “Additionally he yelled that Attorney Battey is “a little piece of shit,” the motion states.
Not quite, Beslow countered on the stand in his own defense.
He explained he had not used the word “little” but had made the rest of the statement, which he repeated.
This did not sit well with the judge Munro, according to Norris.
He said the judge denied his motion to revoke the license but polled the lawyers as to their hourly rates. Norris replied that he gets $550 an hour, Ferro $760, and Battey $300.
Then the judge turned to Besow and asked, what is your hourly rate?
After conferring with his client, Beslow replied, “$675 an hour.”
According to Norris, Munro came to a decision: “Here’s what I’m ordering, Mr. Beslow. Within 30 days you will pay Mr. Norris for 12 hours of his time. Attorney Ferro for 12 hours of his time. Attorney Battey for 12 hours. You will not bill for your time associated with this matter, and in addition you will pay a $7,500 deposit with the Connecticut Client Security Fund. “
“If you do the math,” said Norris, “by my calculation , it’s just short of $35,000.”
In an objection to Norris’ motion to revoke Beslow’s Connecticut admission, Meyers and Beslow tried to explain why, admittedly, “Attorney Beslow made several injudicious statements in anger.”
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Beslow was attempting to honor a deposition date he believed Battey had agreed to. Leaving his wife and young children at home in southwestern Massachusetts, Beslow spent the Sunday night in New York to be able to meet in New Canaan the next morning.
Arriving with his client and a legal stenographer, Beslow learned that Battey was in Stamford Superior Court. When he tracked her down there, he was admittedly angry. Both Battey and Meyers were there, and Battey claimed she’d told Meyers the deposition was off.
“Implicitly,” Beslow argued in his answer, “Attorney Battey embraced the proposition that it is acceptable behavior for attorneys to retract their agreements at a whim.” He and Meyers wrote that “Attorney Beslow did not say that ‘Connecticut lawyers are sleazy,’ that Attorney Battey is Attorney Ferro’s ‘pawn,’ that Attorney Ferro is a ‘liar,’ or that Attorney Battey is a ‘little piece of shit.’” And he offered to go on the witness stand to clear this up.
It’s highly unusual for four lawyers to take the stand in a motion to disqualify an out of state lawyer, and it’s rare for a judge to hand down thousands of dollars in sanctions in a ruling from the bench. “This was the talk of Middletown courthouse,” Norris said.
Beslow, who is not reticent, did not return calls and an email seeking comment Friday morning.
One of the statements Beslow made during his courthouse tirade was a vow to never speak to Battey again. He attempted to explain in his answer to the motion why that made good sense.
His request that she not telephone him again, Beslow wrote, “was not mean-spirited.” It was proper and appropriate because, “once an attorney breaks his or her word or reneges on an agreement  there is no point in another attorney speaking with him or her — for there would exist the possibility that he or she would again disown his or her statements or again renege on an agreement — even an agreement in writing.”