Why does it take 7 felony convictions for the Alaska Bar to suspend Sen. Stevens’ bar license?

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

As twolf1 noted earlier at Oxdown Gazette, Sen. Ted Stevens will be facing ethics proceedings in the Senate in spite of his ridiculous claim that he wasn’t convicted. I must admit, however, that I will be at mildly surprised if Sen. Reid follows through on this. In addition to any Senate investigation, Sen. Stevens now also faces suspension of his Alaska Bar Association license to practice law. (H/t WriteChic).

But with all the unethical conduct engaged in both by attorneys representing the Republican Party and also by those serving in the Legislative, Judicial and Executive Branches over the last 7 1/2 years, the various state Bar Associations have independently initiated grievance proceedings against only two of them: I. Lewis Libby (Disbarred by the D.C. Bar – use “I ” as the First Name search criteria and Suspended by Pennsylvania) and Sen. Theodore F. Stevens (Suspended by the Alaska State Bar – Alaska State Bar’s websearch not updated as of 11-03-08). Even after they were convicted by a jury of their peers, and actually sentenced in Libby’s case, both the Alaska and Pennsylvania Bar Associations merely suspended these attorneys’ licenses.

According to Tom Kizzia of the Alaska Daily News, the Alaska State Bar proceeded similarly after a plea of guilty by Jim Clark:

There’s no deadline by which the Supreme Court has to decide such a license challenge, said chief deputy court clerk Lori Wade. Stevens has a right to file legal memoranda in his defense.

In the recent case of Jim Clark, the former chief of staff to Gov. Frank Murkowski, interim suspension of his bar license was imposed last May after two months of legal argument. Clark, who pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge related to illegal campaign help from Veco, still awaits sentencing. A final resolution of Clark’s bar license will be made after a full disciplinary hearing following the sentencing.

But unless an attorney is convicted of a crime, the state bar associations will not investigate any unethical conduct by their member attorneys unless and until a formal grievance is filed against the attorney.

A couple of watch groups and some private attorneys have filed several grievances. Texas Watch has filed grievances against Texas Supreme Court Justices Nathan Hecht and David Medina for unethical activity taking place at the state level in Texas. At the federal level, CREW has filed grievances against Michael J. Elston and Esther Slater McDonald for their part in the politicized hiring practices taking place at the DoJ, although CREW’s complaint against Mr. Elston failed to include any allegations of Mr. Elston’s unethical conduct relating to the U.S. Attorney firing scandal which I document here. My favorite, though, is the complaint filed by private attorney, William Wilder, against Monica Marie Goodling for her numerous examples of unethical conduct, as I have documented here.

Unfortunately, these responses by the state Bar associations, watch groups and private attorneys have been far too limited to be of any real effect. These limitations led to The Grievance Project, which is my attempt to educate people, encourage them to educate others and try to convince an one or more people to file a complaint against these attorneys and many others – I stopped adding to my list when it passed 95 names.

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