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Court rejects Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's bid to regain law license

Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim appeared in court in June seeking reinstatement to the Connecticut bar. He was suspended following his 2003 conviction on corruption charges. A panel of superior court judges has now denied Ganim's application for reinstatement.
Tyler Russell
Connecticut Public
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim appeared in court in June seeking reinstatement to the Connecticut bar. He was suspended following his 2003 conviction on corruption charges. A panel of superior court judges has now denied Ganim's application for reinstatement.

A panel of Superior Court judges has denied Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's latest request to have his law license reinstated.

In a decision released Friday, the judges accepted a recommendation from a standing committee of lawyers in Hartford County to reject Ganim’s application, finding members relied on sound judgment to render their decision.

Ganim was first elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1991 and served in that role until his conviction in 2003 on corruption charges. His license has remained suspended since then.

After a two-day hearing last year, a narrow majority of committee members recommended keeping the license suspension in place, writing that allowing Ganim to practice law again could tarnish the public’s view of the legal profession.

Ganim failed at a subsequent hearing to show the committee's recommendation to deny the application was arbitrary, unreasonable or an abuse of its discretion, or without a fair investigation of the facts, the judges wrote in Friday’s decision.

"There is sufficient evidence in the record supporting the standing committee's finding that the evidence of the applicant's recent good moral conduct and rehabilitation was still insufficient for it to conclude that the applicant possesses the highest qualities and traits that the present fitness to practice law demands," the decision reads.

Federal prosecutors charged Ganim with a wide-ranging scheme to trade his influence for personal gain, including by steering city projects to clients of two associates in exchange for cash, meals, fitness equipment, designer clothing, wine, jewelry and other goods.

Ganim served seven years of his prison sentence, followed by a period of three years of supervised release.

Ganim, now 63, mounted an unlikely political comeback after leaving prison, winning reelection as mayor of Bridgeport in 2015, and securing another four-year term in 2019.

During a hearing last year, Ganim’s lawyer highlighted the mayor’s efforts at rehabilitation since his release from prison as evidence of his fitness to practice law.

Five witnesses also testified on Ganim's behalf, including his deputy chief of staff; his brother-in-law; Rev. David Miller, pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church; Richard Borer, a good friend of Ganim's, and the former longtime mayor of West Haven; and Jeffrey Grant, an advisor to Bridgeport's council on reentry programs for people who were formerly incarcerated.

Members of the Standing Committee on Recommendations for Admissions to the Bar were nevertheless unswayed. In a majority report released earlier this year, three of five members wrote that Ganim's recent good conduct "does not outweigh the damage his re-admission would cause to the integrity and standing of the Bar, or to the administration of justice."

They cited criteria spelled out previously by the Connecticut Supreme Court in a 2014 decision on Ganim’s previous application to get his license back.

Ganim first applied in 2011 to get his license reinstated. He received a favorable recommendation from a committee of lawyers in Fairfield County, but judges ultimately denied Ganim’s application, finding he failed to prove his good moral character or show sufficient remorse for his conduct.

Ganim long maintained he was innocent of the corruption charges before changing course in early 2015, issuing a public apology in a speech delivered at Bridgeport’s East End Baptist Church.

Ganim again apologized on the witness stand during last year's hearing on his latest application for reinstatement.

Two members of the committee backed Ganim's request, writing in a dissenting report that Ganim has unequivocally acknowledged and admitted to his wrongdoing, accepted responsibility for his misconduct, and expressed his sense of remorse through words and actions.

"Mr. Ganim's full commitment to giving back to the people of Bridgeport, the real victims of his misconduct, is clear for all to see," they wrote. "He has fully committed himself as a twice reelected mayor and earned the trust of the city and its people over the last eight years."

But other members of the committee were skeptical that Ganim was sincere. They also raised concerns about his “character, integrity, honesty and trustworthiness relating to his past misdeeds,” which they said could weigh on his fitness to practice law, according to the decision released Friday.

Members of the majority cited an overriding concern for societal institutions expressed previously by the state Supreme Court. In their view, that concern "preponderates over any desire to award an applicant for a commendable rehabilitation,” the decision reads.

Ganim was represented by lawyer Suzanne Sutton. Sutton was not immediately available Monday to discuss the court’s decision when contacted by Connecticut Public.

Jim Haddadin is an editor for The Accountability Project, Connecticut Public's investigative reporting team. He was previously an investigative producer at NBC Boston, and wrote for newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

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