HARTFORD, Conn. — In the latest twist in the fight over his law license, the state appellate court at the close of business Thursday postponed the imposition of a six-month suspension of Alex Jones’ lawyer Norm Pattis — at least temporarily.
Pattis asked the appeals court to intervene earlier in the day and postpone an immediate six-month license suspension ordered by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who presided over Jones’ Connecticut defamation case that resulted in a potential record-setting $1.4 billion verdict last year.
Bellis ordered the suspension on Jan. 5 and refused on Wednesday to postpone it after deciding Pattis violated her orders by sharing confidential medical files belonging to relatives of Sandy Hook victims with Texas lawyers involved in related litigation. Pattis claims the disclosure was inadvertent.
Pattis sought the postponement for a variety of reasons. Among them, he says he plans to appeal the discipline. Without a postponement, the six-month suspension would run before an appeal could be heard. And Pattis needs his license to continue as part of the defense team in a federal seditious conspiracy prosecution in Washington, D.C. against five members of the far right Proud Boys organization charged in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The Washington courts have a reciprocity agreement with Connecticut concerning the discipline and licensing of lawyers.
The judge assigned to the Proud Boys case had been waiting to see whether Pattis’ license suspension was postponed before deciding on how to proceed with the trial, which was about to begin Thursday. Pattis moved to withdraw from the case Wednesday, after Bellis declined to delay the suspension, but the judge did not rule.
The order issued by the appellate clerk postpones the suspension for 10 days and perhaps longer.
“The emergency motion for review is granted and the relief requested is granted, in part, in that the January 5, 2023 order by the trial court, Bellis, J., suspending Attorney Norman Pattis from the practice of law for six months is hereby stayed until Monday, January 23, 2023,” the order said.
“If Attorney Pattis files a motion for review on or before January 23, 2023, and files a writ of error in full compliance with the appellate rules on or before January 25, 2023, then this emergency stay will remain in effect until the resolution of the motion for review.”
In ordering Pattis’ immediate suspension on Jan. 5, Bellis said his failure to protect highly sensitive medical and psychiatric records belonging to relatives of Sandy Hook victims caused the records to be “carelessly passed around from one unauthorized person to another” in violation of her repeated orders.
The records at the center of the suspension, about 4,000 pages of medical records that were among about 390,000 pages of other records provided to Pattis’ office by relatives of Sandy Hook victims, were never disclosed publicly.
Pattis has acknowledged that he set in motion a series of exchanges that distributed the records between his law office in Connecticut and three others in Texas — all of which were involved in some fashion in lawsuits by Sandy Hook relatives against Jones. In his filing in Washington Monday, Pattis said none of the recipients of the records, contained on a computer hard drive, ever looked at them.
The final recipient said he destroyed them.
Pattis had not previously been the subject of professional discipline.
Bellis wrote in a long order imposing the suspension, that Pattis’ sharing of the records with Texas lawyers was a willful violation of confidentiality orders she issued to protect the Sandy Hook families forced to share the records with Jones from misuse of the material in an effort to discredit them. Had the records become public, Bellis said the families faced potentially “stunning” harm.
Bellis said in a decision ordering the suspension that the disclosure of the medical records was the second time Pattis had violated her orders protecting confidential materials.