Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
McCoy agrees to reprimand for law firm’s handling of bankruptcy case

By Alex Wood
Journal Inquirer
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 10:49 AM EDT

A state lawyer discipline panel has reprimanded former Vernon Mayor Jason L. McCoy for lack of diligence in pursuing a client’s bankruptcy case in his private law practice.

McCoy has 30 days from the April 5 date of the two-member panel’s decision to appeal to the full Statewide Grievance Committee. But that appears unlikely because he agreed in writing to the reprimand.

McCoy admitted in 2009 that he had failed to diligently pursue another client’s civil lawsuit due to an error in his office’s docket management system, resulting in dismissal of that lawsuit. He agreed at that time to take two continuing legal education courses but received no further discipline.

McCoy, who practices law in Vernon, didn’t admit all the claims of his former client in the bankruptcy case, William Lukas III of Mansfield.

But he acknowledged that there was sufficient evidence to prove that he failed to ensure that his office sent all documents to a federal bankruptcy trustee in a timely way and that he failed to supervise his staff properly, resulting in an associate lawyer in his firm missing a hearing.

The written agreement settling the disciplinary case was carefully crafted not to affect a civil lawsuit Lukas has filed against McCoy in Vernon Superior Court over the failed bankruptcy case.

Lukas’ bankruptcy petition was dismissed, and he was barred from filing another petition for 180 days.

The disciplinary agreement says it shouldn’t be used as evidence that, if McCoy had done everything he should have done in a timely way, Lukas’ Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan would have been held to be feasible. The agreement leaves open the possibility that the bankruptcy petition might have been dismissed anyway for reasons beyond McCoy’s control.

Assistant Disciplinary Counsel Suzanne Sutton, who prosecuted the disciplinary case, said during a Feb. 2 hearing on the agreement that McCoy took over a bankruptcy case that Lukas had filed without a lawyer, while his house was in foreclosure. She compared the situation to “a fire,” according to the hearing transcript.

Sutton said the federal bankruptcy court “is just inundated with paperwork, especially if you’re trying to do a Chapter 13 case with somebody who runs their own business.”

She continued, “Some of that paperwork, for whatever reason, was not filed. Even though attorney McCoy had it in his possession, it was not forwarded to the trustee in a timely manner. Other information that was alleged not to be filed timely was, in fact, not provided to attorney McCoy in a timely manner.”

Lukas opposed the agreement resolving the disciplinary case. He read a statement to the panel saying, “This is a case where an attorney took a confirmable bankruptcy case and, through repeated acts of negligence and legal misconduct, had it dismissed and barred. The end result was the loss of an $800,000 home with no relief from my debts.”

McCoy said in a written response to the complaint that even with $80,000 offered by a friend of Lucas, “this income would not support the five-year plan, which would require $1,500 to $2,500 over and above his regular mortgage payments for the arrearage.”

The day he retained McCoy, Lukas said, he gave him almost $6,300 in money orders to pay two months of his mortgage. He said those money orders stayed in McCoy’s file for more than a year and were ultimately placed in storage. He described McCoy’s failure to turn over the money orders as “a major reason for having my case dismissed.”

But McCoy explained in his written response to Lukas’ complaint that his office’s practice is to hold such payments until the hearing at which the bankruptcy is approved or “confirmed.”

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