Kosiorek v. Smigelski
The trial court properly considered the sanctity of the judicial deliberative process in limiting the cross-examination of a probate judge whose testimony was that of a fact witness. Stanley Kosiorek, executor of the estate of Stanislaw Kosiorek, commenced this action against his prior attorney, Jacek Smigelski, concerning legal fees deducted from estate funds following the negotiation of a title dispute and sale of the decedent's property. The probate court disallowed the defendant's total fee of $70,833.33 finding it excessive and unreasonable and ordered the defendant to restore $54,833.33 to the estate. The defendant refused. The plaintiff was granted a prejudgment remedy. The defendant transferred interests in 122 Main Street, LLC, renaming it 122 Main Street Associates, LLC. The plaintiff cited in 122 Main Street Associates, LLC. The trial court directed a verdict for 122 Main Street on statutory and common-law claims of fraudulent conveyance. The jury found for the plaintiff on five counts against Smigelski including unjust enrichment, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act, C.G.S. §42-110a. Damages were trebled and, with interest, attorneys' fees and costs, the judgment amounted to $298,458.29. Both parties appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment, in part, and remanded as to the plaintiff's statutory claim against 122 Main Street. The judgment was otherwise affirmed. The trial court improperly directed the verdict on the statutory fraudulent conveyance claim because, unlike the common law claim, under the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, C.G.S. §52-552a, fraudulent intent on the part of the transferee is not required. The defendant's multiple claims on appeal were rejected. The trial court did not err in denying the defendant's motion for a directed verdict, including on the ground that expert testimony was required on whether the legal fees charged were reasonable. Expert testimony was not required as the jury was presented with the probate court's decree and heard from the plaintiff's former attorney who worked on the title dispute for over two years and charged only $7700. The defendant's contention that the trial court improperly permitted the probate judge to testify as an expert witness and improperly limited the scope of his cross examination was meritless. The testimony of the Honorable Heidi Famiglietti was limited to that of fact witness. Preclusion of testimony as to her decision-making process was proper.