When Valent Kolami hired a lawyer in order to become a legal citizen, he was shocked when the attorney didn’t do what she promised.
“I pay her and she never did her job,” said Valent Kolami regarding an attorney he ended filing a grievance against.
Kolami is an Albanian immigrant whose dream is to become a legal U.S. citizen, so he wasn’t deterred when his request for political asylum was denied by the immigration court. He hired attorney Judith Sporn to handle his appeal.
“Every Tuesday, we go into the immigration office, we say, ‘we are here, and we are waiting for our lawyer to fill out our paperwork’,” Kolami explained.
However, that paperwork never made it to the immigration office in New York as it was supposed to, because attorney Judith Sporn had sent it to Hartford, which made it late. The delay caused the appeal to be denied.
According to court documents, the attorney didn't know about the appeals unfavorable result, because she hadn’t checked on its status for seven years.
Sporn only found out it had been denied when Kolami was detained by immigration officers. By that time, there was a deportation order for him.
While, Sporn had helped Kolami get several “stay of removals”, eventually, he was locked up in immigration custody and held for more than a year.
Now, his chances to become a citizen are a lot worse.
“My only fear is to be deported from this country,” said Kolami. “To which I no want for my kids.”
Kolami fears the life and business he’s built in the United States for the last decade could be ripped away at any moment.
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters found Kolami’s story is similar to others who hired Judith Sporn to represent them in their immigration cases. He and other clients filed formal complaints against her with the Statewide Grievance Committee.
As a result, Sporn’s license to practice law has been suspended for two years.
After NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters visited Sporn's office, her own attorney reached out to us and said they have appealed the suspension. An opinion just released Monday by the appellate court indicates that appeal was denied.
Complaints against attorneys are common. In Connecticut from 2013 to2016, 3,500 grievance complaints were filed. In 700 of those cases, “probable cause” was found by the grievance committee; the most common reason for complaints was a lack of diligence and communication by an attorney.
“That harm can be widespread for attorneys who don't get the work done on time and don't tell their client the news,” said Michael Bowler, counsel to the Statewide Grievance Committee. Bowler is one of people who helps decide if an attorney will be disciplined.
“We don't see the things that hit the news a lot, for instance lawyers stealing money, or lawyers engaging in fraud,” explained Bolwer. “Those tend to be the exceptions the real cases we get, the typical cases we get are the ones we are seeing here with attorney Sporn.”
NBC Connecticut Troubleshooters found complaints about other attorneys for things like not showing up to client's hearings, not taking clients phones calls or telling them results of court proceedings. In one case, an attorney failed to turn over $20,000 to her client from a real estate deal.
Kolami said it’s very important for an attorney who is representing someone in their immigration case to do their job.
“The need help from you,” said Kolami. “They have (their) life your hand.”
Attorneys can end up being suspended or ultimately disbarred if they violate laws governing conduct. For more information on how to file a complaint against an attorney, see the