CCDLA: A Call For Poll Of The Executive Committee

I am a come-and-go member of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. I say come and go because I from time to time quit in a huff about one thing or another. Just now, I am on the cusp of taking my dues elsewhere. But first, I would like some answers from the CCDLA executive committee.

Is it true that one of the executive committee members wrote to federal prosecutors urging a criminal investigation of a prominent Connecticut criminal defense lawyer? I am told that this is true. But I do not know it to be so. Rumor swirls right now about an investigation focused on the relationship between Waterbury State's Attorney John Connelly and Martin Minnella. A federal grand jury is pressing hard, reviewing files in the state's attorney's office and seeking to review records in Minnella's firm. I represent Mr. Minnella.

The other day, I asked the president-elect of the CCDLA, Jennifer Zito, to voice opposition to the federal government's decision to contact current and former clients of Mr. Minnella's. I do not know what the executive committee will do, if anything. But the scope of the investigation seems ominous to me.

But before the committee considers action on this topic, the committee should be polled, and each member should be asked the following question: Have you written or signed a letter to federal prosecutors suggesting or requesting that a criminal defense lawyer be investigated by federal prosecutors? Clearly, a "yes" answer to this question would disqualify the committee member from participating in any discussion of whether CCDLA should take a position on the investigation. It might also call into question whether the committee member should be on the committee at all.

The members of the Executive Committee are as follows: Conrad Seifert, President; Jennifer Zito, President-Elect, with a term to begin on September 16, 2010; Leonard Crone, Vice President; Moira Buckley, Secretary; John T. Walkley, Treasurer. The association's parliamentarian is Richard Emanuel.

I have been told by several sources that a committee member played a key role in initiating an investigation of Minnella. Before I pay another set of dues, I want to know if this is true, and, if so, what the committee's view of such conduct is. At a minimum, it seems that a leader in an association dedicated to serving the state's criminal defense bar has a fiduciary responsibility to the membership. Is that duty served by behaving as an informant for the federal government?

Most criminal defense lawyers take a dim view of confidential informants: we call them snitches, rats and other names. Some lawyers refuse to represent people who want to flip, or become informants. Is the CCDLA leadership harboring a snitch?

I really want to know the answer to this question. I am hoping the question can be answered by the next annual meeting on September 16 at the Mohegan Sun casino. If it's not answered, I may just put the question to the committee myself; I am, after all, scheduled to be a speaker at the meeting, so I know I will have everyone's attention, if only for a moment.

NOTE: The following comment was posted on another site and forwarded to me: Pamala wrote:

"For some reason I could not post a comment on the article website. What I want to post is this: The government likes to float red herrings. I think this is one of them. The government has no use for the CCDLA. This is a way to divide and weaken the organization. Why not name the sources in the same way the Board members have been named and accused? "
First, I am not the government. I am a member of CCDLA and I have no interest in weakening the organization.
Second, I have not accused anyone. I am asking for a poll of the board. If someone cares to confront a board member afterward, they can decide to come forward.
Finally, it is a legitimate question and should be answered. Obsfucation and blaming the messenger is not an answer.

Comments: (13)

  • I'm on the executive board as an at large member, ...
    I'm on the executive board as an at large member, Norm.
    I have never heard of this, but it would upset me too, having dealt with the federal investigation of my father.
    I wrote no letter and NEVER would.
    Jay Ruane
    Posted on September 4, 2010 at 6:08 am by Anonymous
  • Nobody likes a rat.
    Nobody likes a rat.
    Posted on September 4, 2010 at 8:48 am by Lindy Urso
  • I agree completely and have a further concern. Sh...
    I agree completely and have a further concern. Should the answer to your query of the Executive Committee be in the negative, we may be dealing with a rat of a different stripe, a rat weakening the CCDLA from within for whatever motive.
    Reid Bogie
    Posted on September 4, 2010 at 10:41 am by Anonymous
  • Norm--You are out of line to accuse the executive ...
    Norm--You are out of line to accuse the executive Board of misconduct based on rumors. The CCDLA Board has done absolutely nothing to implicate Marty Minnella. You know that. If you want to know what people do individually, send Marchio and Proccacini to ask them. I assure you, that if I knew that co-counsel in a case was providing a prosecutor with cash or benefits to influence a case, I would be on the phone immediately to the right people. You well know we have a duty to our clients as well as an ethical duty to report misconduct. I hope it is not true about Marty. You are out of line to smear the executive board as a whole based on what you describe as rumors. Shame on you. Is the "Legal Community is jealous of Marty" defense not holding up? Deal with facts not spineless allegations. I am begging you to raise this as new business at the annual meeting. After 10 years, I have one foot out the door, but I am still on the executive board as Past President for now. Feel free to voice concern about the actions of the organization but don't try to defend your client with a laughable claim about breaching a "fiduciary" responsibility to the membership. As you have called us out publicly, Please post this to the Blog as well verbatim. ED GAVIN, Immediate Past President, CCDLA
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 7:04 am by ED GAVIN
  • Ed:
    I may well be out of line. I don't know. But ...
    I may well be out of line. I don't know. But as a member in good standing, I have a right to ask the question. So I have asked. Denouncing the questioner is a cheap trick used by people who don't want to answer questions. A simple and truthful denial would be a simpler solution, and it debases and defames no one.
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 7:08 am by Norm Pattis
  • I think one point needs clarification that being t...
    I think one point needs clarification that being the purpose of the CCDLA. Is it a group whose purpose is to hold yearly outings of drinking and gambling at Mohegan Sun or is it designed to promote and advance issues the Defense bar finds pressing and important? If the purpose is the latter then in order to advance this stated purpose the hierarchy of the organization should have no problem answering a question posed by a member regarding a matter of concern. This organization charges member dues and the payment of such dues and the choice of paying those guarantees that minimum members have the right to know the position of members of the governing body on various issues. The organization has a list serve that is abused on a regular basis and used for jokes and personal conversations. The question posed can be answered by every member on the executive board via the list serve and the matter need not wait until the meeting at Mohegan Sun. To Ed How does Norm’s question amount to raising a fiduciary claim as a defense? Norm is simply asking if a member of the Executive Board of a group in which he pays dues has taken action which he believes is in direct conflict with the principles of the group. He and any other member or potential member has the right to make such an inquiry in deciding if they agree with such behavior in making a decision regarding membership. I believe Norm stated he intended to ask the CCDLA to take a position regarding a government inquiry of former clients. This issue relates directly to what we do every day and can have dramatic consequences on the entire criminal bar. The government is essentially going to inquire of people about a relationship that is supposed to be confidential. The government is trying to turn former clients against attorneys for purposes of a criminal investigation. If this does not undermine the defense attorney’s role within the system then nothing does and this is certainly an issue the CCDLA should be taking a position on if the purpose of the group is to serve the best interests of the criminal defense bar. As for your comments regarding “the jealousy defense not working”. You may have been upset when you wrote such comments and I hope that is their origin because such comments are just beneath you and personally I expect much more from you. Regardless of the profession anytime someone achieves a great deal of success, which Marty Minnella has, and is evident by the long list of acquittals he has obtained for his clients, in jurisdictions throughout this state, a recent one coming in Middletown, people start to get jealous. This is a fact of life and to discount this is just naïve and knowing you for a period of time, knowing your work and the fact you are extremely intelligent, if you were you defending a similar situation you would be raising the issue as well because it is the truth. As far as being “on the phone with the right people”, this fly’s in the face of what we do because how would you know for a fact? We are the ones that are not supposed to jump to conclusions and just make snap decisions as to situations and conduct. You may find yourself in such a situation where you have suspicions, but mere suspicions is not proof and the situation where you would know for a fact such conduct is taking place is extremely unlikely to be found.
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 8:32 am by Rob Serafinowicz
  • It is not the question itself that is offensive. I...
    It is not the question itself that is offensive. It is the way that Norm is asking the question that is offensive. He has a right to ask it in any forum or manner he wants. But don't pretend that the manner in which he has chosen to raise the question doesn't hurt the organization. Norm you could have posted this question on the list serve if all you wanted was an answer or simply raise it with the membership. The article speaks for itself. I was actually hoping the gov't was responsible for your suspicions and accusations.
    The "don't blame the messenger" line is disingenuous and looks like a back pedal to me.
    Pam Favreau
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 9:30 am by Anonymous
  • P:
    The question was put in a public manner in an ...
    The question was put in a public manner in an effort to deter the flood of gossip and innuendo about this case. I am sorry you find it offensive, but it is a fair question. Answering it publicly assures reliability that private conversations do not afford. If it is untrue, say so. Or avoid the issue in a fit of piqué. I do not raise the issue lightly.
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 9:47 am by Norm Pattis
  • Jealousy runs rampant in this business and that is...
    Jealousy runs rampant in this business and that is unfortunate. Right now the talk of the Connecticut Criminal Defense Bar is what is going on in the City of Waterbury. This issue is a lightning rod situation. When Norman Pattis tries to raise a valid issue relevant to all members of the criminal bar regarding the position of the CCDLA he is accused of trying to undermine the organization. What reason Norman Pattis has to undermine the CCDLA and what he stands to gain from doing that is likely one of the questions of the ages.
    There is a great deal of talk regarding what is going on in the City of Waterbury and the investigation of its Chief Prosecutor and a lawyer who has won more trials than most members of the bar combined. This like many other things has been the subject of much gossip. Now this is a matter of public concern so discussion would seem to be appropriate. Many people want to advance their own agenda when it comes to this topic, these people want to ignore one major question that being “How did this investigation start”? The smart money is that a group of lawyers thought that it was a way to somehow increase their own “share” of the business by removing a prominent member of the bar, and this is well known. Here is the bottom line as far as this is concerned. To those involved, you need to take a brief moment and make note of the fact you are not slick and you did not pull a coupe. Just because your name does not appear on a letter does not mean that your involvement is not well known or you are fooling people into believing that you are not a part of this. You should be prepared for the day when your questioned about conduct involving grievance panel investigations into the use of “runners”, multiple bar presentments taking place in the same month and a great deal of other activity that you believe nobody knows about. You were not “slick” in taking the actions that you did in this case nor were you” slick” the numerous other times you have tried similar stunts designed to humiliate lawyers by speaking ill of them behind their backs the basis being you are jealous of them and the success they have achieved in the area of trying cases. You are not “slick” when you attempt to steal business from practice areas you had no idea could be fruitful until you saw the fruits of their labor. Maybe you should tell one of your partners in crime about the comments you make about him having to borrow money from his mom to pay his quarterly taxes. This is a complicated business but one thing about criminal law is fairly simple and straight forward. Those in need of a criminal defense attorney want a good one. They want a lawyer who has tried and won cases, and at a minimum brings their practice book to a jury trial. They want a lawyer who will work hard on their behalf and they want a lawyer knowledgeable on the law. If you do not possess these qualities then you will not be taking over any “market share” you believe you should have. The long list of people who you advised to plead guilty in cases where they did nothing wrong so as to not ruffle any feathers and who later realized this and voiced their displeasure to anyone who will listen is going to keep your share of the business where it exists today. You should take note of this before you pat yourself on the back behind clothes doors and give yourself so much credit for being so clever. One thing is clear and will not change pushing for a federal investigation will never make up for a lack of ability on your part.
    Posted on September 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm by Criminal Law Today
  • Norm,
    Would you consider this. You are asking the ...
    Would you consider this. You are asking the executive board to take a stance on the Feds questioning Marty Minnella's former clients. At it's next meeting your request would be raised to the Board. The first issue for the Board members would be "Does anyone have a conflict addressing Norm's request?" If a Board member did have a conflict, they would abstain from the Board Vote. The balance of the Board would address your request. My guess is that the Board would say that even if we disagree with the Governments investigation and make a public proclamation against it, it will do nothing to stop the investigation.
    Now, lets get to the real reason your are making the request. You have a suspicion that someone on the Board wrote a letter to the Feds which started the investigation. I have no belief or information that anyone did in fact do so. But assume a member did so. We have our annual elections coming up in a few weeks. If you believe a Board member acted inappropriately and should not be on the Executive Board, then by all means vote against their appointment and maybe even run for the position yourself. I still believe that the fact that you are vigorously representing Marty does not give you, as a dues paying member, the right to conduct an inquiry of how Board members acted in their private capacity. If a member acted inappropriately on behalf of CCDLA, you are well within your rights to object. It still comes down to you asking the board members privately if they did so and then you taking that information and acting on it as you seem fit. Just because we are on the Board doesn't mean I have to tell any member who asks who I voted for in the Presidential election or other personal info. If I chose not to answer a question put to me, then the inquirer can take that for what it is worth and act as they deem fit.
    Finally, we all know that a letter is not going to control a Federal investigation. I hope it goes nowhere. It tarnishes all of us to think that a criminal lawyer would provide benefits to a prosecutor in exchange for favorable treatment. That's not a level playing field. I have represented Judges, Prosecutors and Lawyers in criminal cases. It's not fun. Please consider my suggestion to ask the Board members yourself or through your investigators privately whether any Board member wrote the imaginary condemning letter about Marty. I am confident that you will find the simple answer is No. If you feel that as a member you have the right to conduct a public inquiry, I will look forward to our discussion at the Annual meeting. ED GAVIN
    Posted on September 6, 2010 at 6:28 am by ED GAVIN
  • E:
    I don't expect CCDLA to ask the feds to stop a...
    I don't expect CCDLA to ask the feds to stop an investigation. But I have spoken to JZ about bringing to the board's attention the federal government's decision to question my client's past and current clients. That strikes me as ominous. If the baard disagrees, so be it.
    I hope you are right about what the answer will be. I believe a public response is more reliable, as it holds open the possibility of rebuttal.
    Me on the board? Hell, I am lucky to pay my dues year by year and did not even realize I was a member until JZ reminded me I was.
    This is different than asking about a presidential election. It is simply asking whether any board member went to federal prosecutors to complain about a fellow member of the board. It would seem to me that fellow CCDLA members would want to know that. But obviously I may be mistaken.
    Posted on September 6, 2010 at 6:37 am by Norm Pattis
  • Ed:
    Makes that "fellow member of the bar."
    Makes that "fellow member of the bar."
    Posted on September 6, 2010 at 6:43 am by Norm Pattis
  • NORM, Post the name of the member you coward. Are...
    NORM, Post the name of the member you coward. Are you afraid of being sued?
    Posted on September 8, 2010 at 8:01 am by Anonymous

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