How disbarred CT attorney will pay for court-ordered mental

The disbarred former Hamden attorney accused of making antisemitic remarks about a judge has asked her insurance provider to foot the bill for a mental health evaluation to determine if she has a “condition” that would prevent her from following court orders, her attorney said Tuesday.

Nickola Cunha had until Tuesday to provide Middletown Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher with a plan to get the evaluation, which her attorney Norm Pattis said could cost as much as $15,000 if done by clinicians associated with Yale University.

As of last week, Cunha’s family didn’t have the money to pay for the Yale evaluation, which Pattis considered the “gold standard” for determining if a client is competent to participate in their own defense.

On Tuesday, Pattis told Moukawsher during a remote court proceeding that his client’s insurance provider has agreed to pay for the evaluation, but there’s a catch — it can’t be “categorized as a competency” evaluation. Pattis didn’t explain why the insurer wanted specific language. He instead asked the judge for a “short leash” and a court date in one week to confirm that the insurance company would pay.

“We are not 100 percent sure, but we think we have the problem solved,” Pattis said of the issue of who will pay for the evaluation.

Unlike criminal proceedings where the state pays to determine if a defendant is competent to participate in their own defense, the clinicians would be examining whether Cunha, who has repeatedly defied Moukawsher’s orders, had a mental health issue that prevented her from cooperating with the details of her disbarment. The judge has said Cunha has failed to provide accurate client names and contact information and detailed recipients for the time she spent on their cases.

Moukawsher disbarred Cunha, 54, of Wallingford, earlier this year after she filed a motion requesting that a family court judge be removed from a pending divorce case because he “showed bias in favor of Jewish litigants and the disabled,” court documents said.

Cunha then repeatedly failed to take the steps required by Moukawsher to settle her affairs with several clients, court documents showed. Her resistance to provide information to an appointed trustee led her to be brought to court in shackles this month following a weekend in the custody of the state Department of Correction, the judge pointed out.

During that court appearance, Pattis contended that his client might be suffering from a mental health condition and she would invoke the Fifth Amendment if asked questions about her billing practices. At least one client has accused Cunha of taking $70,000 from a settlement without her permission or knowledge, court documents said.

After discussing the plan for the mental health evaluation, Moukawsher asked Pattis and Brian Staines, the state’s Chief Disciplinary Counsel, if they had been contacted by prosecutors about potential charges in connection with the client claims.

“Is there any activity I should be aware of?” the judge asked Tuesday.

Pattis and Staines said they had not been contacted by any prosecutors regarding Cunha’s clients. Moukawsher then agreed to give Pattis one week to confirm the insurer would pay for the evaluation.

Cunha was disbarred in January after Moukawsher ruled she had made “empty and malicious claims,” alleging another judge was engaged in a Judaism-based conspiracy and protected child sexual abuse as part of her representation of a Glastonbury woman engaged in a dissolution of marriage case.

As part of the ruling, Moukawsher ordered Cunha in April to turn over her clients’ contact information, along with active and pending files to a court-appointed trustee. The judge noted at the time that a recent withdrawal of $30,000 from a client’s account may have been illegal and required an audit. That figure ballooned to $78,000 after a discussion with the client, Staines said in court documents.

Cunha turned over the information for three clients on May 13, according to the trustee who was appointed by the court after her disbarment. But Cunha failed to supply complete information for several other clients, court documents said.