One Hand Clapping

Opinion: Ganim's Reinstatement Shouldn't Be Based On Remorse

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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Norm Pattis

Former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph P. Ganim was convicted by a federal jury and served seven years in prison for his role in a racketeering conspiracy that extorted some $800,000 from contractors seeking to do business in the Park City. That verdict was returned in 2003. He's done his time. Now he wants his law license back. One obstacle standing in his way is his refusal to express remorse.

Someone tell me this is a sick joke.

Ganim's reinstatement campaign took him to the state's Supreme Court on Dec. 3, where his counsel faced questions about whether Ganim was truly sorry for what he had done.

A panel of lawyers in Fairfield County reviewed Ganim's reapplication to the bar, and recommended that he be permitted to resume practicing law. But a three-judge panel rejected those recommendations, relying, in part, on his refusal to issue "any apology, expression of remorse, or explanation" for the conduct that led to his conviction.

Chief Disciplinary Counsel Patricia King told the Supreme Court that, in her office's view, Ganim has to "come in and give us some explanation of how he came to be convicted of a four-year crime spree."

Stand your ground, Joe. If disciplinary counsel wants to figure out how you got convicted, send her a copy of the trial transcript. I assume she's not too busy to read it.

The law of conspiracy has long been criticized for casting too broad a net, entangling within its web both those culpable and those merely in the vicinity of the unlawful acts of others. Ganim has always maintained his innocence. He fought to prove it at trial, claiming that close associates peddled access to him and used his name for criminal purposes. He lost that trial.

It speaks volumes about his character that he is not willing to change his tune simply to get what he wants. I presume that if he were to come whining, mewling and sniveling into King's office, all would be forgiven. But wouldn't that be proof positive that Ganim was a liar, a chameleon willing to change colors to suit the tastes of his audience?

Justice Carmen Espinosa seemed to get it right during last week's argument. Is Ganim to forever be barred from the practice law for "exercising a constitutional right to claim he is innocent?"

I understand that the practice of law is a privilege, and that members of the bar must demonstrate sufficient character to be entrusted with the care of the affairs of others. But let's not transform this character and fitness requirement into a species of naive moralism.

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