Five Questions With Rick Healey on Real Estate Law, Jail Overcrowding

Robert Storace, The Connecticut Law Tribune

November 23, 2016

Growing up in Massachusetts during the 1960s, Rick Healey recalls that from an early age his parents urged their three sons to speak their minds on issues facing the country.

Healey, an attorney with the Hartford-based law firm Rome McGuigan, said he “always had a great respect for our system of government and the system of laws.” Becoming an attorney—as did his siblings—“seemed like a semi-natural progression. My professors in college inspired me the most to want to become a lawyer. That, in addition to the atmosphere in my house growing up.”

Among his areas of practice are corporate, finance, real estate, employment and education law; civil and commercial litigation; election law; and bond underwriter representation. Healey joined Hoberman & Pollack, the predecessor of Rome McGuigan, as a principal in 1984. In addition to his practice, Healey has overseen the day-to-day administration of the firm since 1993.

Healey recently sat down to discuss how the practice of law has changed over time, among other topics.

1) You have been a Connecticut attorney since 1977. How has your practice changed during that time?

I started doing a lot of real estate, development and finance work representing both lenders and developers. I found it was helpful to know both sides of the transaction because it helps you better represent your client.

When I started in the late 1970s and early 1980s, lenders wanted the best quality representation they could get and it was standard for the borrower to pay the lender’s attorney fees as part of the cost of the transaction.

What’s happened is loans became a function of the market place. There was competition out there for the loans, and borrowers exerted their leverage to get the lenders to choose lawyers who’d do it for the least amount of money.

Because it became important for lenders to put the money out, they became more interested in cheap representation than thorough representation. That, coupled with the real estate collapse greatly reduced the amount of quality real estate work to be done.

2) Tell us about the case you participated in that affected you the most on an emotional level.

There was a man who was wrongfully arrested and taken from his home the day after he got out of the hospital following a series of major surgeries. That traumatic event happened at a time when his constitution couldn’t handle it and he never recovered.

While it was not possible to undue the effects of that night, there was some satisfaction for our client in being able to get a significant financial result for the victim’s family.

3) You were a member of the state’s Prisons and Jails Overcrowding Commission (PJOC) from 1999–2006. Tell us what your role was on that commission and the progress it made to address jail overcrowding.

I was one of the public members of the PJOC, which was succeeded by the Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Commission. There was tremendous effort over the years to assemble representatives from all state agencies involved in the criminal justice process to improve communication and share information in order to implement a comprehensive policy. That process improved over time as deficiencies were exposed—especially related to the Cheshire home invasion tragedy—and efforts have increased dramatically since.

There’s been an effort to have serious offenders serve their time while also enabling lesser offenders, who demonstrate a desire to improve their lives, to have an opportunity to quickly and easily integrate back into society. The overall effect has been a marketed decrease in the number of incarcerated individuals.

4) For the past nine years you have been the legal advisor for the Petit Family Foundation. As many in Connecticut are aware, the foundation was formed soon after Dr. William Petit’s wife and two daughters were murdered in a home invasion. Tell us about your role as the foundation’s legal advisor and what working with Dr. Petit – who was just elected as a Republican state representative – has been like.

I was Bill’s lawyer and he was my doctor before the tragedy. I’ve always had the greatest respect for him as a doctor and human being, and I served as a sounding board for him and his family following the tragedy. I continued to play that role when the foundation was formed. The people involved are united in their love for Bill and their respect for the positive impact the foundation has through its grants.

Bill has always had an intellectual curiosity and a desire to understand fully any problem or challenge he encountered. He will bring that to the Legislature where he will be an inspiration to everyone as he does the people’s work.

5) Who in the legal profession—whether in Connecticut or nationally—do you admire, and why?

I’ve had the privilege of working with Austin McGuigan for almost 30 years. He’s always had great respect for the law and for doing what’s right.

When he was chief state’s attorney and dealt with political corruption in his hometown of New Britain, he dealt with “For Sale” signs stuck in his lawn every day, telephone calls asking if he’d seen his children recently and death threats.

He didn’t back off and didn’t move away. He saw it through because it was his responsibility. He represented the interests of people who had the decks stacked against them, and works tirelessly to bring out the truth and to get his clients the results they deserve.

Robert Storace can be reached at 860–757–6642 or at [email protected]