Lawyer faces ethics charges after his IT person accesses exiting employee's personal emails

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A Connecticut lawyer is accused in an ethics presentment of violating laws on unauthorized access to a computer system, after his network administrator downloaded emails from an exiting associate’s personal email account.

The lawyer, Emanuele Robert Cicchiello of Hartford, Connecticut, was accused in a Jan. 13 presentment, Law360 reports. A presentment asks the superior court to decide whether to discipline a lawyer, according to an FAQ page for the Connecticut Judicial Branch.

According to the presentment, Cicchiello had ordered his network administrator in February 2021 to access the office computer of departing lawyer Alexander J. Sarris to find his communications with the new law firm that hired him. The network administrator “retrieved, copied and downloaded personal emails” from Sarris’ Gmail account, the ethics complaint says.

The emails were downloaded onto the server of Cicchiello’s law firm, Cicchiello & Cicchiello, the presentment says.

The presentment alleges violation of a rule barring attorneys from committing criminal acts that reflect adversely on their honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer.

Cicchiello is also accused of trying to prevent Sarris’ new firm from reaching out to clients. A lawyer from Sarris’ new firm, AnnMarie C. Rocco, had contacted Cicchiello to see whether he wanted to send a joint letter to Sarris’ clients. Rocco wanted to notify the clients that they had a right to keep their cases with Cicchiello’s firm, to transfer the cases to Sarris or to transfer them elsewhere.

Cicchiello allegedly responded with an email to Rocco declaring that the clients belonged to his firm. He wrote: “I will say in unambiguous terms that should you proceed in this manner, we will not hesitate to sue Alex personally and your firm, as well as file grievances. If you act on your email and participate, we will include you and your firm in those grievances and lawsuits … By virtue of your email, you have in essence admitted to conspiring to commit a crime and exposed yourself and Alex to civil damages and potential criminal liability … Again, the clients are my firm’s, not Alex’s. Do not contact them in any manner.”

Cicchiello also filed an ex parte application for a restraining order, but Rocco had already sent the letter to clients before it was granted.

The presentment also says Cicchiello advised a departing client who obtained his file that Cicchiello & Cicchiello could attend an upcoming hearing to try to reach a settlement, or it could tell the judge that the client wanted the matter continued until a court rules on the dispute between Sarris’ new firm and Cicchiello & Cicchiello.

Cicchiello has no history of discipline. In an admission of misconduct, he acknowledged violating an ethics rule that bars threatening criminal charges to gain an advantage in a civil matter. He consented to that matter being submitted to the superior court. But he denied other allegations while acknowledging that the disciplinary counsel will pursue other alleged misconduct before the superior court.

A person who answered the phone at Cicchiello’s firm said he had no comment. Cicchiello did not immediately respond to a separate ABA Journal email requesting comment.

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