The senior partner of a south London law firm has been sanctioned by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for unprofessional and “completely unacceptable” correspondence with a litigant in person, in which he accused her of lying, disgraceful behaviour and arguing with a judge “like a fisherwoman”.
In one e-mail, Stefano Lucatello wrote: “Please answer the questions and don’t try to be clever. You fail miserably.”
Mr Lucatello, 56 and admitted in 1988, is senior partner of Kobalt Law and acted for an Italian citizen in matrimonial proceedings against his former wife, specifically about his contact arrangements in Italy and the maintenance he was to pay her.
The solicitor corresponded with the wife, who was a litigant in person, for nearly 16 months in 2014 and 2015, and the tribunal cited a host of seemingly intemperate statements in his e-mails.
One said: “You seem to think that everyone who represents another party is a liar! I have told you before not to judge people by your own standards.”
In another, he wrote: “Of course you will have forgotten your own distasteful outbursts before DJ Bowman where you argued with her in court like a fisherwoman.”
He also told the wife that “your behaviour and conduct throughout are a disgrace”.
At various stages, Mr Lucatello threatened to have her arrested and to apply to have her daughter taken from her.
The wife complained to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that he had made comments that were offensive and threatening.
In a letter to the regulator, Mr Lucatello said: “[All the comments] are in my opinion, and those of others, reasonable, fair, polite, but firm, having regard to the extensive history of this case generally, having regard to [the wife’s] repeated refusals to comply with various judges’ contact orders… and in her continuous attempts to thwart all contact between father and daughter, coupled with her wild allegations and accusations, calling me a ‘bully’, a ‘stalker’ and other such adjectives (sic), which clearly show the lady to be unbalanced.”
However, ahead of the tribunal, Mr Lucatello admitted the charge that he failed to display proper professional respect and courtesy to the wife.
The SRA said there was no evidence that either his client or the wife had been prejudiced by the conduct, while when read in full, “it was clear from the correspondence that what [the wife] had said was also inappropriate”.
The tribunal said that Mr Lucatello’s correspondence had been “completely unacceptable”.
It continued: “He had been corresponding with a litigant in person and it had been his responsibility to maintain his professionalism regardless of what that person may have done.
“[His] conduct was unprofessional and had continued for a period of over a year.”
At the same time, the tribunal acknowledged that the solicitor had enjoyed a long and previously unblemished career.
The SRA and Mr Lucatello had submitted a joint proposal that a £5,000 fine would be a reasonable penalty, and the tribunal said this was “proportionate and appropriate”.
Mr Lucatello also agreed to pay £2,500 in costs.