Attorney’s Conviction For Negligent Homicide With A Motor Vehicle Does Not Lead To Professional Discipline

By David Shaiken

The Connecticut Superior Court recently held that an attorney’s conviction for negligent homicide with a motor vehicle does not constitute a “serious crime” for purposes of attorney discipline. Declining to be bound by an Appellate Court ruling that held that negligent homicide with a motor vehicle is a violation, not a crime, the Court agreed with the Chief Disciplinary Counsel that an act could be a mere violation for one purpose and a serious crime for purposes of attorney discipline. However, the Court held that an attorney’s negligence in operating a motor vehicle does not implicate her fitness to practice law, and therefore is not grounds for discipline or disbarment. As a result, the Court dismissed the case.

Obviously whatever the attorney did or failed to do in that car caused a very serious consequence, i.e., the death of a pedestrian, a crime for which the attorney was punished. Nevertheless, the Court got it right. Driving a car negligently has nothing to do with the knowledge, skill, honesty and professional judgment that are requisite to being fit to practice law. The outcome of this case seems obvious to me, which leads to the question: why would precious State resources be spent bringing this disciplinary proceeding in the first place? A little prosecutorial discretion might have been in order before the complaint was filed. Chief Disciplinary Counsel v. MacPhail, 2010 WL 1793904 (Conn. Super. April 1, 2010).