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In re Grievance Proceeding

171 F. Supp. 2d 81 (2001)

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In re Grievance Proceeding

United States District Court for the District of Connecticut

171 F. Supp. 2d 81 (2001)

Facts

In 1998, a federal district court judge referred an unnamed attorney (respondent) to the court’s grievance committee for using a fee agreement over a decade earlier that gave the attorney discretion to reject settlements without the client’s knowledge. The fee agreement specified the attorney had complete and sole discretion to reject settlement offers and did not need to communicate offers to the client. That provision violated the Rules of Professional Conduct that Connecticut adopted in 1986. The attorney requested dismissal, claiming reliance on an informal ethics opinion issued before the new ethics rules, and that the provision violated only the comments and not the new rules themselves. The attorney had stopped using the provision before referral to the grievance committee upon learning that a later ethics opinion withdrew earlier advice allowing attorneys to reject settlements absent a satisfactory fee. Moreover, the attorney had not actually kept settlement offers from the client and communicated a settlement offer the client rejected. Finally, the attorney had continued to practice law without using the provision in fee agreements. The grievance committee concluded the attorney had violated the rules but recommended dismissal of the grievance without discipline.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Underhill, J.)

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