The Grand Inquisitor Comes To Connecticut

There was quiet rumbling in the office of the United States Attorney when the new regime seized power. “Beware the Southern District,” some folks whispered; “lawyers feed on their own in Manhattan.” There is an ambitious new kid on the block. David Fein, Connecticut’s new to federal prosecutor, was said to be a man on a mission: He was going to come marching into office smelling of Hellfire and brimstone.

I guess this Greek chorus got it right.

Fein’s one of those squeaky clean sorts of fellows with a resume that glows in the dark. He worked as associate legal counsel in the Clinton White House, and spent about six years in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. He revolved through the doors of several status firms, Cravath, Swaine & Moore, among them. He then landed at Wiggin and Dana in Stamford, where he flourished, reportedly earning $1.8 million at the firm in 2008.

But trial experience has been hard for him to come by. The Department of Justice webpage introducing him as Connecticut’s new top prosecutor has this to say: “He has “tried approximately 15 cases ... to verdict, of which he was chief counsel in approximately 10.” Let’s just say he’s not good with numbers.

He has been on tour in the state, reporting his agenda: he cares about public corruption and financial fraud. I’m also told he cares about the next rung in his career. With a net worth of more than $3.5 million, he is set for life. So why not strike high and hard? Perhaps ride the rocket docket of destiny to a judgeship or Washington by the end of the first Obama term.

I heard all this chatter from folks close to the office and listened with an impish interest. But I didn’t take the talk all that seriously. There are winners and losers in every pyramid. There is room at the top for but one. Perhaps what I was hearing were the sounds of sour grapes being mashed.

Then I learned that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had dropped yet another line in the fetid waters of a place called Waterbury. Why not topple a prosecutor, and bring down a defense lawyer for the ride? Hey, perhaps we can even topple a judge or two? When I got wind of this investigation I shuddered. This could be just the ticket for an ambitious prosecutor.

But still I was not persuaded that the legionnaires at Justice would come marching on orders from Washington to despoil the bar.

I believe it now. And here’s why. A client of mine, Attorney Martin Minnella, just received a grand jury subpoena. Among the items requested are a complete list of his clients for past six years together with the fees he was paid for representation. The subpoena even asked for the non-privileged portions of certain client files. Has Mr. Fein decided to go fishing with his 23 new buddies on the grand jury? Will he be fishing in your firm records next?

The grand jury was supposed to be a tool to protect ordinary people from the antics of government officials. The theory was that secrecy protected the parties investigated from the damage public accusations can cause. The grand jury has become an investigative tool that works in secret, obscuring its purposes even from those whom it is intended to protect. When I have called prosecutors to ask about the scope of their inquiry, I am told these purposes cannot be revealed. Let me get this right: To protect my client the government sets about secretly to destroy him?

Welcome to the brave new world of lawyering in Connecticut. Your records and files can be summoned at will by a Government that believes it must protect you from its suspicions about you. This is the specious reasoning of a tyrant.Of course, we will file a motion to quash this new subpoena. I do not know to what judge the motion shall be assigned. I hope the judge hearing the motion will have a question or two for Mr. Fein’s office. Among the questions is what view, if any, does the Government hold of the scope of the attorney-client privilege? I, for one, have more than one client who would not want the Government to know that they had paid me a fee to remain under the radar.

What role will the Court play in supervising the antics of the new, improved office of the Grand Inquisitor?             Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.

Comments: (1)

  • One such as I who has been targeted by state's att...
    One such as I who has been targeted by state's attorneys for witness intimidation including threats of physicl violence for the "crime" of filing a criminal complaint against lawyers at a prominent CT statewide corporate law firm for stealing thousands of dollars of medical films of mine meant for use for an operation on my neck supported by unassailable documentary evidence can only be ambivalent about Pattis's posting. Before I filed the criminal complaint, the corporate lawyers had at first lied that I had ever dropped off the films, making it appear I was trying to extory money from them. When I exposed this lie in relation to a complaint with the Statewide Grievance Committee, their ruling was "so what?" (i. e., the lie was "immaterial"). If the lie was "immaterial," why did the corporate lawyers make it up? Though everyone knows that the Statewide Grievance Committee--and as I also found the Judicial Review Committee--was established so lawyers (and judges) could have some official body to lie to to help them get away with their crimes. Anyway, I've taken care of some matters with my investigative journalism work--and I'm not finished yet.
    State's attorneys literally acted as a protection racket for the corporate lawyers. What Pattis sets up is an opposition between a Grand Inquisitor and lawless, rogue elements of the CT state's attorneys system which have operated with impunity for years and years. These lawless elements have flourished especially under Blumenthal's aegis as attorney general. Nothing I could do with my incontrovertible accusations of serious, vicious, systematic, and burgeoning criminal activity or anyone else could do--even Blumenthal by his own admission in a note to me--was able to root this out or even curtail it. In my case, the crimnal activity spread to judges in Bridgeport and others in the legal system who were not first a part of it.
    From what I can see, nothing less than a Grand Inquisitor is required to protect CT citizens and residents from the determinedly, much-practiced lawlessness of state's attorneys. Pattis has objections to the tactics of Fein. But from what I can tell, rough as they are and possibly unfair and probably prejudicial, at least it is all legal. This contrasts with the secretive illegalities of state's attorneys in league with their favorites in the private sector of the legal system.
    I've wondered if the day would come when the Fairfield County State's Attorney's system would be taken over for a time by Federal authorities. I know this is a near impossibility. But it looks like Federal authorities have at last recognized that something drastic has to be done regarding the reckless, sociopathic, and socially undermining lawless activities in the state's attorney system.
    No one wishes for a client of Pattis's or anyone else to be given a hard time needlessly. What I'm seeing from my experiences is what comes about from unprofessional, criminal, and threatening activities in the legal system. Pattis's client looks like he might be collateral damage. But the fault for this is not Fein's. The fault rests with a cavalier, out-of-control, threatening state's attorney system which refuses to clean up its own act.
    Posted on September 2, 2010 at 4:04 am by Henry Berry

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