United States District Court, D. Connecticut
IN THE MATTER OF THE RECIPROCAL DISCIPLINE OF ZENAS ZELOTES AS AN ATTORNEY-AT-LAW
R. Underhill United States District Judge
Grievance Committee of the United States District for the
District of Connecticut (hereinafter “Grievance
Committee”) has brought this presentment action to
obtain reciprocal discipline against Attorney Zenas Zelotes
for violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct
(hereinafter “RPC”). I held a hearing on June 1,
2015, and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons
stated below, I grant reciprocal discipline against Attorney
Zenas Zelotes for a term of five months' suspension from
practice before this Court. In the interests of justice and
fairness, however, given the length period during which this
matter has been under advisement, I set aside that order and
substitute a sanction of public remand.
Chief Disciplinary Counsel initiated a presentment action
against Zelotes in the Superior Court of Connecticut,
Judicial District of Stamford/Norwalk. See Disciplinary
Counsel v. Zelotes, 2013 WL 3769820, at *1 (Conn. Super.
Ct. June 28, 2013), aff'd sub nom. Chief Disciplinary
Counsel v. Zelotes, 152 Conn.App. 380 (2014). The trial
court found Zelotes violated rules 1.7(a)(2) and 8.4(4) of
the RPC and ordered a suspension from the practice of law for
five months. Id. at *6. The Connecticut Appellate
Court affirmed the trial court's decision and upheld the
length of suspension. Disciplinary Counsel v.
Zelotes, 152 Conn.App. 380, 410 (2014).
has expressly acknowledged the facts giving rise to this
case. The Connecticut Appellate Court has adopted the trial
court's factual findings, which were undisputed. The
following facts are relevant to this discussion and come from
the findings of the trial court as adopted by the Appellate
Court. Michael Aliano and his wife Terry Aliano
were having marital problems. On March 19, 2010, they met
Zelotes and his girlfriend at a jazz club in Norwalk, CT. The
couples exchanged phone numbers and began seeing one another
socially. Zelotes became friendly with both Alianos, and
after socializing with the both of them for some time,
Zelotes started seeing Terry alone, beginning in June 2010.
Thereafter, Zelotes began an intimate relationship with
Terry. On September 27, 2010, shortly after their intimate
relationship began, Zelotes entered an appearance on behalf
of Terry in the Aliano divorce. In December of 2010, Michael
came home and saw Zelotes and Terry sitting in the kitchen
sharing wine. Michael filed a motion in the divorce case to
disqualify Zelotes from representing Terry, which was
granted. After the disqualification, Zelotes and Terry ceased
their intimate relationship. Zelotes was charged with
violating Rule 1.7(a)(2). Zelotes' violation of Rule
1.7(a)(2) was based on the court's finding that
“their intimacy and the love that the defendant
professed for his client might have terminated or its level
diminished, bringing into question the future level of
competency, diligence and detachment of the defendant.”
Zelotes, 152 Conn.App. at 383. Zelotes was also
charged with violating Rule 8.4(4), which prohibits conduct
prejudicial to the administration of justice, by
“encourag[ing] [Terry] to go forward with her divorce
against Michael . . . and fil[ing] an appearance on her
behalf in lieu of prior counsel.” Id. at 384.
Standard of Review
Rule 83.2(f)(2) governs when reciprocal discipline should be
imposed in federal court. See In re Williams, 978
F.Supp.2d 123, 123-24 (D. Conn. 2012). Under Local Rule
83.2(f)(2), when the Grievance Committee petitions for the
imposition of reciprocal discipline via a presentment action,
the identical discipline must be imposed unless it clearly
appears on the face of the record in the prior disciplinary
a. That the procedure was so lacking in notice or opportunity
to be heard as to constitute a deprivation of due process; or
b. That there was such an infirmity of proof establishing the
misconduct as to give rise to the clear conviction that the
Court could not, consistent with its duty, accept as final
the discipline imposed; or
c. That the imposition of the same discipline by the Court
would result in grave injustice;
d. Or that the misconduct established is deemed by the Court
to warrant substantially different discipline.
D. Conn. L. Civ. R. 83.2(f)(2). If the court finds that one
or more of these exceptions exists, it may enter “such
other order as it deems appropriate.” Id.
“The standard of review in this proceeding is highly
deferential to the state court's determination.”
In re Williams, 978 F.Supp.2d at 125 (citing
Theard v. United States, 354 U.S. 278, 282 (1957);
see also In re Roman, 601 F.3d 189, 192-94 (2d Cir.
2010); In re Edelstein, 214 F.3d 127, 132 (2d Cir.
2000)). The burden falls on Zelotes to demonstrate by clear
and convincing evidence that reciprocal discipline should not
be imposed. In re Roman, 601 F.3d at 194 (citing
In re Friedman, 51 F.3d 20, 22 (2d Cir. 1995)). When
the presentment is contested, as it has been here, the court
should not act as a rubber stamp in the name of reciprocity.
In re Williams, 978 F.Supp.2d at 125. Instead it
must determine whether the record of the prior proceeding
discloses a substantial defect covered by one of the
exceptions to reciprocal discipline. Id.