By Richard Luthmann
Chris Ambrose has a history of litigious behavior. He appears to be trying to use CT’s Jennifer’s Law as a sword to decimate his ex-wife, Karen Riordan, and send her to jail.
He has employed local attorneys who seem bent on using the CT family court proceeding to their advantage, potentially violating ethical rules and the sanctity of the attorney-client privilege.
It warrants an investigation into federal racketeering conspiracy, a crime that growingly appears to be at the heart of high-conflict family court divorce and custody battles in CT.
The father, Ambrose, is a suspended attorney and a disgraced Hollywood screen writer who lost his career over allegations of plagiarism.
A noted psychiatrist identified him as likely psychopathic, and there are allegations of molestation by his adopted children, including some revealed in communications from CT Department of Children and Families.
Ambrose brought in the big guns at a recent Jennifer’s Law petition hearing. His newly-hired attorney Alexander J. Cuda of Westport, Connecticut, approached the Family Court Bench with documents from a sealed attorney misconduct hearing.
Ambrose accused his ex-wife of “abusing” their three children by forcing them to make false claims against him.
His attorney Cuda presented sealed documents from an attorney misconduct hearing to the court.
Cuda said the records in the sealed document showed a pattern of abuse by the mother, Karen Riordan.
Riordan wasn’t a party to the confidential attorney grievance proceedings. She is not an attorney, and the Grievance Committee never asked her to reply.
The matter concerned her former attorney and relates to a time when three frightened children escaped from their father, Ambrose, after DCF put a 96 hour hold on Ambrose being with his children based on the children’s allegations of abuse.
Ambrose had custody of his children.
But that is not the point.
The point is where did Cuda get the documents related to Riodan’s attorney that supposedly reflected badly on her?
Judge Thomas J. O’Neill asked Cuda the question.
Where did he get the documents?
Cuda said from attorney Edward Nusbaum.
Westport, Connecticut attorney Edward Nusbaum was the mother’s former attorney. He and Riordan are in a fee dispute over $64,000 Nusbaum holds in his attorney’s escrow account.
Cuda told Judge O’Neill that Nusbaum gave him and his client Ambrose documents intended to harm Riordan, the mother of Ambrose’s three children and Nusbaum’s former client.
If Cuda told the truth, Nusbaum may have violated the Rules of Professional Conduct for Attorneys Rule 1.6 – Client Confidentiality.
If the documents presented to Judge O’Neill, offered by Cuda, originated from Nusbaum, then they were acquired based on protected information and confidences from an attorney-client relationship with Riordan.
Nusbaum may have committed a severe breach.
The entire court record becomes suspect. Nusbaum, and maybe Cuda, could be punished.
Judge O’Neill, a newcomer to the bench, may be excused because of lack of legal knowledge and reliance on Cuda’s superior knowledge.
Cuda’s important role in the CT bar association could be important to Judge O’Neill’s future assignments.
Still, they might have gone too far.
The sanctity of the attorney-client privilege is pivotal in allowing individuals to provide candid facts and receive frank counseling about a legal issue.
Even in CT, this is a highly valued rule.
The exception to the general rule of attorney confidence is that information can be used defensively by attorneys against claims of wrongdoing or in fee arbitration proceedings to establish their good-faith billing.
Under no circumstances can confidences imparted in good faith and with legitimate purpose be used offensively to hurt the former client.
By giving sensitive information to a former client’s ex-husband and his attorney based on the information and knowledge imparted in confidence by the former client to gain a litigation advantage in a pending fee dispute, Attorney Nusbaum has crossed the Rubicon of his profession.
Disbarment is not out of the question.
The bar association must also scrutinize the conduct of attorney Cuda, but here Cuda will have a strong chance at avoiding sanctions.
Cuda has been a leader in the CT bar association and until recently he headed the CT Bar Association Family Law Section.
Nusbaum apparently provided Cuda with non-public information against his client in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Attorney Cuda chose to use it in court.
Ambrose’s last lawyer, Milford, Connecticut attorney Christopher T. Goulden, recently resigned from the case.
In this case, three teenagers, Matthew, 16, Mia, 16 and Sawyer, 13, claim they are the prolonged objects of their father’s abuse.
Ambrose claims the children are lying, being coercively controlled by their mother to make the claims.
Ambrose successfully blocked the children from seeing their mother for three years.
They recently fled from his home and lived with her.
That ended today.
Ambrose wants the mother arrested for custodial interference and sought from Judge O’Neill a restraining order preventing the mother from coming within 100 yards of her teenage children.
Before making his decision, Judge O’Neill ruled he would not allow the teenage children of Ambrose and Riordan to testify.
He would rely on the word of their father.
FR will report the results of the most recent hearing – which ended with disastrous results to the children.
But before we do, let us take a moment to consider:
Riordan’s former attorney released confidential documents to submarine his client.
Frank Report previously published articles claiming evidence exists that Nusbaum worked covertly against Riordan when he represented her, while billing her almost $100,000 for what appears to be a falsified work product.
New evidence revealed yesterday shows Nusbaum not only worked against Rirodan’s interest when he represented her, but is still doing so now.
A full investigation is warranted.