A welcome and not altogether unexpected piece of news arrived in the mail. It was from the Grievance Committee. The panel found no further need to investigate a complaint lodged against me. I filed the complaint myself.
I learned a long time ago never to run from a fight. Meet the accusation head on. If you don’t do so, the accuser is empowered. Far better to turn the accuser’s finger back into his own eye, as I do here to the editorial board of the Connecticut Law Tribune.
Not long ago, the body took me to task publicly for a couple of columns I wrote about the timing of the release of a Connecticut Supreme Court decision involving clients of mine. My clients were elected school board members in Bridgeport. They were replaced by gubernatorial appointees. The case was placed on an expedited track to the high court. And there it sat, seemingly forever.
When the state Legislature was being pressed to pass legislation to make any decision by the high court moot, I asked aloud whether justice delayed was justice denied. When the decision was finally published a couple days after I wrote the piece, it was a 6-1 decision in my client’s favor.
The governor’s men were all over the General Assembly. They weren’t giving up the fight. I wrote again reporting on whispering and speculation among court watchers regarding why it took so long to publish the decision.
This was too much for the editorial board of the Tribune. In a tendentious and anonymous piece, they told the world I disappointed them. Then they suggested I had violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by speaking ill of the court without foundation.
Former Supreme Court Justice Joette Katz is now chief of the editorial board. A couple of dozen other lawyers sit on the board. They concoct their opinions in secret meetings, governed by secret by-laws that bind the paper to publish their opinions, like it not. In recent months, the board has become a lethargic cheerleader for the judiciary. I was targeted by them for discipline because, apparently, a majority of voting board members thought I had erred.
Yet not one of them had the integrity to file a grievance against me. Instead, they suggested I violated my duty in a public forum, calling into question my integrity. Needless to say, I take such accusations seriously.
So I printed out all I had written about the Bridgeport school board case, the Tribune’s editorial, and a letter, and I sent them to Grievance Counsel as a grievance. The matter was referred to a local panel for an investigation, and promptly closed as a non-issue. Case closed, at least for the moment.
I have little regard for those who hide behind a masthead. If the board was serious about its belief I had erred, then why did it not initiate a disciplinary proceeding? If any member of the board truly believed that I was derelict in my duty to the court, then why no grievance from the board member? Don’t we have a duty to report errant members of the bar?
Of course, grievance proceedings are private, and unless probable cause is found to believe misconduct took place, no public record of the proceeding exists. This confidentiality protects members of the bar from the reputational harm incident to irresponsible and baseless complaints. Filing a complaint that goes nowhere simply doesn’t have the appeal of using the Rules of Professional Conduct as little more than a bully’s billy club.
The members of the Tribune’s editorial board know that.
So this band of judicial cheerleaders launched an attack in public knowing full well a private attack would be futile. Then they accused me of banging on a bully pulpit. Hypocrites all.
I may disappoint the Tribune editorial board, but the group’s tawdry ethical posturing disgusts me. If the board wants to play at judging, let ‘em don robes, or at least have the anatomy to own what they write, with real names, signed complaints, and the requirement to turn up for cross-examination when their target decides to call their bluff.
Generally I ignore attacks on me by scriveners of all sorts. What’s the point in returning the rent check for the space I occupy in another’s head? But the Tribune’s board aspires to institutional presence. It simply lacks credibility.
Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.