Smigelski v. Kosiorek
Rule 8.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct requires the attorneys of this state to report known misconduct of their colleagues to the appropriate professional authority; it does not afford claimants standing to report that misconduct or to assert the due process rights possessed by another individual, in Superior Court. The defendant, Stanley Kosiorek retained the plaintiff, Jacek Smigelski, to represent Kosiorek in his fiduciary capacity as executor of the estate of Stanislaw Kosiorek to clear title to the estate's only asset, a house and to assist with the estate. The Probate Court approved the sale of the house with the net proceeds totaling $155,300.82. From the funds, the plaintiff paid himself $65,833.33 in addition to a retainer of $5000. The Probate Court found the fees excessive and ordered the plaintiff to return $54,833.33 to the estate. The plaintiff refused. The defendant, in his fiduciary capacity, prevailed in an action against the plaintiff. Meanwhile the plaintiff commenced this breach of contract action against the defendant in his individual and fiduciary capacities. The trial court dismissed, for lack of standing, claims seeking a declaration that the Probate Court decrees were null and void and granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the remaining claims based on res judicata. The plaintiff appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff unsuccessfully claimed, first, that the trial court improperly granted summary judgment based on res judicata on his claims asserted, unlike in the prior action, against the defendant in his individual capacity because the defendant in his individual capacity is a separate party and not in privity with the defendant in his fiduciary capacity. Because judicial interpretation of the fee agreement would be the same irrespective of those who are a party to it, the defendant had, in both capacities, the same legal rights under the fee agreement sufficient to support a finding of privity. Additionally, the trial court properly denied the plaintiff's motion to disqualify the defendant's counsel claiming that the attorney could not ethically represent the defendant in both capacities due to an alleged conflict of interest between the defendant, as an individual and as fiduciary. Rule 8.3(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct did not afford the plaintiff statutory standing to raise the claim as contended.