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Cimmino v. Marcoccia

Supreme Court of Connecticut

July 30, 2019

Andrew CIMMINO
v.
Maria MARCOCCIA et al.

         Argued December 19, 2018

Page 1014

          Josephine Smalls Miller, self-represented, the plaintiff in error.

         Alayna M. Stone, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the brief, was George Jepsen, former attorney general, for the defendant in error.

         Robinson, C. J., and Palmer, McDonald, Kahn and Blawie, Js.[*]

          OPINION

         BLAWIE, J.

Page 1015

          [332 Conn. 512] On December 9, 2014, after conducting an en banc hearing on an order to show cause, the defendant in error, the Appellate Court, issued an order suspending the plaintiff in error, Josephine Smalls Miller, "from practice before [the Appellate Court] for a period of six months" and barring her from representing "any client before [the Appellate Court] until she files a motion for reinstatement and that motion has been granted" (2014 order). On October 4, 2017, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel sent a letter to the Chief Clerk of the Supreme and Appellate Courts indicating that Miller had been retained to represent a client in an appeal before the Appellate Court. In response, on February 15, 2018, the Appellate Court issued an additional order, stating that it "hereby clarifies that [the 2014 order] precludes ... Miller from providing legal services of any kind in connection with any ... Appellate Court matter until she files a motion for reinstatement and that motion has been granted" (2018 order). Miller then filed the present writ of error, claiming that the 2018 order was an unconstitutional ex post facto law in violation of the United States constitution[1] because it retroactively [332 Conn. 513] prohibited her from engaging in certain conduct. In addition, Miller claimed that the 2014 order was the result of the Appellate Court’s selective enforcement of the rules of attorney discipline, and argued that both orders were the result of the court’s disparate and retaliatory treatment of minority attorneys who pursue racial discrimination claims on behalf of their clients. After oral argument before this court, we, sua sponte, ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on the following issue: "Whether the Appellate Court’s order of February 15, 2018, clarifying its order of December 9, 2014, violated [Miller’s] constitutional right to due process?" We conclude that the 2018 order did not violate the ex post facto clause and that Miller’s claims of selective enforcement and discriminatory and retaliatory treatment are not reviewable by this court. We further conclude that the 2018 order did not violate Miller’s constitutional due process rights because, as applied, that order did not prohibit her from engaging in conduct that was not also prohibited by the 2014 order. Accordingly, we dismiss the writ of error.

         Many of the underlying facts are set forth in this court’s previous decision in Miller v. Appellate Court, 320 Conn. 759, 761-68, 136 A.3d 1198 (2016). In summary, after Miller, who is an attorney licensed to practice law in this state, repeatedly failed to meet certain deadlines and to comply with the rules of appellate procedure in connection with three appeals that were pending before the Appellate Court, and also filed a frivolous appeal in a fourth case, the Appellate Court issued an order

Page 1016

directing her to appear before an en banc panel of that court to show cause why she should not be sanctioned.[2] Id., at 761, 136 A.3d 1198. After the show cause hearing, [332 Conn. 514] the Appellate Court issued the 2014 order, finding that Miller "has exhibited a persistent pattern of irresponsibility in handling her professional obligations before [the Appellate Court]. ... Miller’s conduct has included the filing of [a] frivolous [appeal] and the failure to file, or to file in timely and appropriate fashion, all documents and materials necessary for the perfection and prosecution of appeals before [the Appellate Court]." The Appellate Court ordered that Miller be suspended "from practice before [the Appellate Court] in all cases ... for a period of six months," with the exception of one appeal then pending. It also barred her from representing "any client before [the Appellate Court] until she files a motion for reinstatement and that motion has been granted." The 2014 order further specified certain remedial steps for Miller to complete before she would be eligible to be considered for reinstatement. The Appellate Court also directed the Chief Disciplinary Counsel to review these matters and to take further action if appropriate.[3]

Page 1017

          [332 Conn. 515] Miller then filed a writ of error in this court, claiming that the Appellate Court had abused its discretion in issuing the 2014 order imposing sanctions on her and referring her to the Chief Disciplinary Counsel without indicating the nature of the inquiry to be conducted. See Miller v. Appellate Court, supra, 320 Conn. at 761, 779-80, 136 A.3d 1198. This court rejected these claims. Id., at 761, 136 A.3d 1198. With respect to the claim that the referral to the Chief Disciplinary [332 Conn. 516] Counsel was improper, this court concluded that, "[a]lthough the order of referral could have been clearer, we do not understand it to be a request for an investigation into the specific conduct giving rise to this writ of error but, rather, a request for a determination of whether Miller’s conduct before the Appellate Court was part of a larger pattern of irresponsibility in [her] handling of her professional obligations." Id., at 780, 136 A.3d 1198. This court further concluded that the Appellate Court had acted within its discretion. Id., at 780-81, 136 A.3d 1198. Accordingly, this court dismissed the writ of error. See id., at 781, 136 A.3d 1198.

          It is also worth noting that, despite the long past expiration of the six month minimum period of suspension in the 2014 order, the record reveals that Miller has never filed a motion for reinstatement. Nor has she ever provided a personal affidavit, or presented any evidence to the Appellate Court that she has successfully completed or implemented any of the remedial practice measures specified in the 2014 order, all of which remain conditions precedent to any possible reinstatement to appellate practice.

          Following the Appellate Court’s referral, it came to the attention of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel that one of Miller’s clients, Jasmine Williams, had filed a grievance complaint against Miller in 2017, alleging unethical conduct arising from an appeal to the Appellate Court. On October 4, 2017, the Chief Disciplinary Counsel sent a letter to the Chief Clerk of the Supreme and Appellate Courts, stating that "[i]t appears that ... Miller may be in violation of the [2014 order], which ordered her suspended from practice before the [A]ppellate [C]ourt in all cases," with the exception of one. According to that letter, Miller had entered into a written retainer agreement with Williams on or about October 1, 2016. By the express terms of that retainer agreement, Miller agreed to "provide legal services at the [A]ppellate [C]ourt level, specifically reviewing of the relevant trial [332 Conn. 517] transcripts, documents and orders, and drafting of ...


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