ACTION ALERT: Support the Bar Ethics Grievance Filed Against Sen. Vitter

The Louisiana State Bar Association has finally received an ethics complaint regarding the allegations, many of which he has admitted, that Sen. David Vitter engaged in multiple instances of adulterous and criminal conduct.  Charlie Melancon, who is challenging Sen. Vitter in Louisiana’s 2010 U.S. Senate race, notes his frustration with the lack of accountability Sen. Vitter has faced to date for this conduct as well as the hope that the complaint will force at least a minimal level of accountability:

…[W]hat David Vitter confessed to wasn’t just a “serious sin,” it was likely a crime. And so far Vitter hasn’t been charged with anything. He’s still got his law license. He’s still a U.S. Senator.

A man’s sin is his own, and with this complaint Vitter may finally have to answer for his actions. Louisiana Politics: CREW, Vitter, Melancon, Jindal, Stephen Sabludowsky, September 30, 2009.

The complaint (with exhibits) was filed by Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and charges that:

…Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) provides it is professional conduct for a lawyer to “commit a criminal act especially one that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”  By his own admission, Sen. Vitter solicited for prostitution in the District of Columbia – apparently on numerous violations – and the evidence strongly suggests he had a pattern of committing the same violations in Louisiana.  Because soliciting prostitutes is a crime, Sen. Vitter clearly violated Rule 8.4(b).  Sen. Vitter’s conduct is all the more egregious because he is an elected official, who has sworn an oath to uphold the law of the United States.

In the CREW press release, Ms. Sloan notes the preferential treatment Sen. Vitter has received so far in response to his admission of multiple criminal acts, especially when compared to the prostitutes employed by the same ‘madam’ from whom Sen. Vitter solicited prostitutes:

13 former prostitutes were forced to testify at the trial of the DC Madam, who committed suicide shortly after her conviction. Sloan noted that one, a former Navy supply officer and Naval Academy instructor, lost her job because the Navy requires those who serve “to adhere to a standard of conduct that reflects the Navy’s values of honor, courage and commitment.” Sloan said, “It is a shame the Senate has no such standard of conduct. It will be interesting to see what sort of standard the Louisiana Disciplinary Board chooses to apply.” [Emphasis supplied.]

It will, indeed, be interesting to see what standards the Disciplinary Counsel will choose to apply to the investigation of this complaint.  In the meantime, it is interesting to review and understand the standards that the Disciplinary Counsel is mandated to apply:

The disciplinary counsel shall evaluate all information coming to his or her attention by complaint or from other sources alleging lawyer misconduct or incapacity. If the lawyer is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court, the matter shall be referred to the appropriate entity in any jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted. If the information, if true, would not constitute misconduct or incapacity, the matter shall be dismissed. If the lawyer is subject to the jurisdiction of the court and the information alleges facts which, if true, would constitute misconduct or incapacity, counsel shall conduct an investigation unless in the discretion of disciplinary counsel the matter qualifies for referral to the Practice Assistance and Improvement Program.  [Emphasis supplied.]  Section 11, Procedure for Disciplinary Proceedings, ¶A, Screening, Louisiana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement.

It is also critical to understand that, in addition to any legal and fact-based defenses that may be available to him, Sen. Vitter will continue to argue – loudly – that this complaint is just another example of political gamesmanship and that it should be summarily dismissed as such.  Accordingly, this complaint is as likely, if not more likely, to be Roach Moteled – that is, it’s checked in to the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel but is never checked out – than it is to receive the proper attention and legitimate investigation it deserves.

Help this complaint get the attention it deserves by contacting the LADB, Office of Disciplinary Counsel and LSBA to respectfully demand that the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel fully comply with the Louisiana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement:

The Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board
2800 Veterans Memorial Boulevard, Suite 310
Metairie, LA 70002
Tel: (504) 834-1488 or (800) 489-8411
Fax: (504) 834-1449
Email: ladb@ladb.org

Office of the Disciplinary Counsel
4000 S. Sherwood Forest Boulevard, Suite 607
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
Tel: (225) 293-3900 or (800) 326-8022
Fax: (225) 293-3300

The Louisiana State Bar Association
Kim H. Boyle, President
365 Canal Street, Suite 2000
New Orleans, LA 70130-6534
Tel: (504) 566-1311
Direct line: (504) 679-5790
Fax: (504) 568-9130
Email: boylek@phelps.com

In what (I hope) is an encouraging sign that this investigation is, in fact, being taken seriously, the Louisiana Supreme Court visited my posts regarding the status of Sen. Vitter’s membership in the Louisiana State Bar Association the day after the complaint was filed.

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Update (03-30-09) re: Sen. Vitter’s missing law license

04-24-09:  IMPORTANT UPDATES AT END OF POST: Senator Vitter is an inactive member of the LSBA although the timing is suspicious:

Wow, that’s very interesting. Here’s an interesting “coincidence” including November, 1999:

A former New Orleans prostitute said she had an affair with Senator David Vitter in 1999 when he was a newly elected House member. The woman, Wendy Ellis, said she saw Mr. Vitter, Republican of Louisiana, two to three times a week from July to November 1999.

Isn’t it also interesting that she tells you how to get information on disciplinary action? I wonder what you will find when you call the Disciplinary Counsel?

So far, no response.  But, importantly, inactive members of the bar must follow the rules of professional conduct so Mr. Vitter isn’t off the hook yet.

1. Still no information regarding Senator Vitter’s membership in the LSBA:

Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board Supreme Court Cases :

  • Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions: No opinion regarding Vitter, David.
  • Louisiana Supreme Court Opinions (Before 2000): No opinion regarding Vitter, David.
  • Disciplinary Board Recommendations: No recommendation regarding Vitter, David.
  • Reports of the Hearing Committees: No reports regarding Vitter, David.

Who’s Who in ADR 2008: No listing for David Vitter.

LegalDirectories.com:

  • State of License: LA
    Last Name: vitter
    Results sorted by: Attorney Last Name
    No Results Found

FindLaw Search by Name:

2. Today, I sent the following webmail request to Maryja Serigny, the Member Records Secretary of the Louisiana State Bar Association, with a copy to Senator David Vitter :

Maryja Serigny
Member Records Secretary
Louisiana State Bar Association.

Ms. Serigny,

Although David B. Vitter received his juris doctorate from Tulane University Law School, was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association, practiced law in Louisiana and was an adjunct professor of law at Tulane, he is not listed in the Louisiana State Bar Association Membership Directory Active Member Search, Martindale.com or anywhere else as currently being licensed to practice law in Louisiana or any other state. It appears that Mr. Vitter is no longer admitted to practice law in Louisiana but I have been unable to confirm whether Mr. Vitter has ever been admitted to the LSBA and, if so, why he is no longer listed as an active member of the LSBA. Your response to the following questions would help clarify this matter:

  1. Is there an online search available for inactive members of the LSBA? Is, so, please respond with a link.
  2. Has Mr. Vitter ever been admitted to the LSBA?
  3. Is Mr. Vitter currently admitted to the LSBA and, if so, what is his date of admission and current status?
  4. Is Mr. Vitter an inactive member of the LSBA? If so, when did he become inactive?
  5. If Mr. Vitter was previously admitted but resigned from the LSBA, was it in lieu of discipline or were any disciplinary hearings threatened or pending at the time of his resignation? If so, what was he accused of doing that was a violation of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct?
  6. If Mr. Vitter was previously admitted but had his license revoked by the LSBA, please describe his conduct that violated the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct .

Thank you for attention to this matter.

E.M./The Grievance Project

https://grievanceproject.wordpress.com

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

Update on 03-30-09:

I received the following response from Ms. Serigny:

Attorney David B Vitter is an inactive member of the Louisiana State Bar Association. You can find only eligible members on our online member directory. If you need to find someone other than an eligible member you would have to either call or email anyone in the membership dept for that information. Mr. Vitter was admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association 10/07/1988. He became inactive on 11/19/1999. If you need information regarding disciplinary action, you would need to contact the Disciplinary Counsel, (800) 326-8022. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me, my information is below.

Thank You,

Maryja

I knew from my first post on this subject that there was a chance that a non-controversial explanation existed for why Sen. Vitter didn’t appear in the LSBA search.  However, whether he was active or inactive, Sen. Vitter remained subject to the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct, just like Senator Ted Stevens did.  So, though this settles the matter of Sen. Vitter’s admission to the LSBA, it does not address the matter of Sen. Vitter’s admitted criminal transgressions. I’ll try to have more on that soon.What remains weird is that Sen. Vitter fails to even acknowledge his degree and former profession in any of his literature. How many attorneys, active or inactive, keep it a secret that they’re lawyers? What reason would anyone have for trying to eliminate such a significant achievement from their resume’?

Update 2 on 03-30-09:

Ms. Serigny provided a contact at the Louisiana Attorney Disciplinary Board.  Here’s my email to Ms. Swanson:

Barbara Swanson, LADB
Ms. Swanson,

Maryja Serigny, Member Records Secretary, Louisiana State Bar Association, referred me to you for assistance regarding questions related to attorney discipline in Louisiana.  Ms. Serigny informed me that Mr. David B. Vitter is an inactive member of the Louisiana State Bar Association.

  1. Do inactive members of the LSBA remain subject to discipline pursuant to the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct?
  2. Are there any provisions in the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct which permit an attorney to become inactive in lieu of discipline or to avoid any pending or threatened disciplinary proceedings?
  3. Has Mr. Vitter ever been the subject of disciplinary proceedings for violations of the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct?  If so, please describe his conduct that was the subject for review.

Thank you for attention to this matter.

E.M./The Grievance Project

Update 3 on 04-30-09:

Welcome back, Senator Vitter:

156.33.35.53 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)District Of Columbia, Washington, United States, 0 returning visit

Date Time WebPage
April 2nd 2009 04:20:36 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/sen-vitter-why-did-you-lose-your-license-to-practice-law/
156.33.35.98 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)District Of Columbia, Washington, United States, 0 returning visit

Date Time WebPage
April 2nd 2009 04:01:41 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/
April 2nd 2009 04:01:58 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/about/
April 2nd 2009 04:02:53 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/
April 2nd 2009 04:06:44 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/
April 2nd 2009 04:06:55 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/sen-vitter-why-did-you-lose-your-license-to-practice-law/
156.33.35.47 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)District Of Columbia, Washington, United States, 0 returning visit

Date Time WebPage
April 2nd 2009 03:58:44 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/
April 2nd 2009 03:58:51 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/
April 2nd 2009 04:00:24 PM No referring link
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/about/

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Sen. Vitter, why DID you lose your license to practice law?

Update on 03-30-09: Senator Vitter is an inactive member of the LSBA.

As I wrote last week, I began researching whether Senator David Vitter’s adulterous and criminal conduct violated the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct. A check of the Louisiana State Bar Association Membership Directory Active Member Search and Martindale.com, however, yielded no results for Senator David Bruce Vitter. I was able to confirm, from publicly-available sources, that Sen. Vitter had received his law degree from Tulane University, had been admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association and had actually practiced law. Additional research by Oxdown Gazette readers dmac and cinnamonape yielded nothing regarding how Senator Vitter lost his license to practice law although cinnamonape found this 2001 press release from Southeastern Louisiana University which confirms that “[w]hile serving in the state legislature, Vitter was a business attorney as well as an adjunct law professor at Tulane and Loyola Universities. He is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Law….” [my emphasis]

I also requested information from Senator Vitter – via his webmail service – confirming whether he is “licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction and whether [he is] a member of any bar association.” Although someone from Senator Vitter’s office has visited The Grievance Project several times since I sent my webmail:

156.33.35.41 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)
District Of Columbia, Washington, United States
March 17th 2009 03:45:33 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/

156.33.35.50 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)
District Of Columbia, Washington, United States
March 17th 2009 03:43:04 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/

156.33.35.86 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)
District Of Columbia, Washington, United States
March 17th 2009 03:30:09 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/

156.33.35.45 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)
District Of Columbia, Washington, United States
March 17th 2009 03:17:51 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/
March 17th 2009 03:18:10 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/

156.33.35.28 (U.S. Senate Sergeant At Arms)
District Of Columbia, Washington, United States
March 18th 2009 04:52:51 PM
grievanceproject.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/is-sen-david-vitter-licensed-to-practice-law/

I have yet to receive a response to my initial inquiry. Accordingly, I have sent this followup webmail to Senator Vitter:

Senator Vitter,

Because I could find no bar association in which you are admitted, I requested last week – via your webmail service – that you identify each bar association in which you are admitted to practice law. To date, I have not received a reply to my request.

It is now clear that you graduated with a law degree from Tulane University, that you were admitted to the Louisiana bar association and that you then practiced law in Louisiana. [1] It is also clear that you are no longer licensed to practice law in nearly every state, including Louisiana. [2] Additional research conducted both by myself and other readers of my post has failed both to provide any evidence to confirm that you are currently admitted to practice law as well as to yield any information that explains why you are no longer licensed to practice law. As a result, what is not clear is why you are no longer admitted to the Louisiana State Bar Association .

Accordingly, I am sending this second correspondence to again request you to identify each bar association to which you have ever been admitted. Please also include both the date(s) on which you were admitted as well as the date(s) on which any license to practice law was lost or revoked. Please also identify the conduct in which you engaged (or were alleged to have engaged) that resulted in the loss or revocation of any license(s) to practice law that you have previously held. In short, please explain why you are no longer admitted to practice law and the circumstances that led to the loss of your license(s) to practice law.

I look forward to your reply.

E.M.

[1] According to SourceWatch , Senator Vitter “was born May 3, 1961 in New Orleans, … educated at Harvard University, Oxford University (and was a Rhodes Scholar), and Tulane University, and was a lawyer and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives before entering the House.” [my emphasis] See: http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=David_Vitter .

According to Wikipedia, you were “a lawyer and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999, when [you] entered the U.S. House.” [my emphasis] See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Vitter

From this press release from Southeastern Louisiana University announcing then-U.S. Representative Vitter as the keynote speaker at SLU’s 2001 commencement program: “While serving in the state legislature, Vitter was a business attorney as well as an adjunct law professor at Tulane and Loyola Universities. He is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Law and Harvard University and earned a history and economics degree with highest honors from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. [my emphasis] See: http://www2.selu.edu/NewsEvents/PublicInfoOffice/vitter-sp01commencement.htm

According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Senator Vitter received his law degree from Tulane University School of Law in 1988. See: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000127

[2] See: http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=V000127

and

http://vitter.senate.gov/

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

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Is Sen. David Vitter licensed to practice law?

Update on 03-30-09: Senator Vitter is an inactive member of the LSBA.

Because Senator David Vitter (R-LA) keeps showing up like a bad penny, I decided to research whether his various criminal activities violated any professional conduct rules of any bar associations to which he might be admitted. I first checked the Louisiana State Bar Association Membership Directory Active Member Search but the search yielded the following result: No matches have been found! I then searched Martindale.com for Sen. Vitter and, again, the search provided no result.

I thought at this point that Senator Vitter may not be an attorney, but according to SourceWatch [emphasis supplied]:

[Sen. Vitter] was born May 3, 1961 in New Orleans, was educated at Harvard University, Oxford University (and was a Rhodes Scholar), and Tulane University, and was a lawyer and member of the Louisiana House of Representatives before entering the House.

Sen. Vitter’s Wikipedia entry also states that he “was a lawyer and a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1992 to 1999, when he entered the U.S. House.” [emphasis supplied.] However, Sen. Vitter’s Senate website biography page does not mention his Tulane University law degree or any prior work experience as an attorney. Further research has failed to confirm the Senator’s admission to any bar association in the United States.*

Via his webmail service, I have asked Sen. Vitter to confirm which, if any, bar associations he is now, or has ever been, a member:

Sen. Vitter,

I have read in several places that you went to Tulane law school and worked as an attorney. However, I have been unable to confirm that you are licensed to practice law or that you are admitted to any state or the DC bars. Please advise if you are licensed to practice law in any jurisdiction and whether you’re a member of any bar association.

Thank you,
E.M.

I’ll update this post if I receive a response from Sen. Vitter. In the meantime, if you have any information about whether Sen. Vitter is licensed to practice law and, if he is, the jurisdiction(s) in which he is admitted to practice, please contact me at:

  • grievanceproject AT gmail DOT com.

Thanks,

E.M./The Grievance Project

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

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*I searched Martindale.com for Sen. Vitter but the search provided no result for the Senator.

I also searched the online directories for the following states plus Washington, D.C. (I have compiled the links to these online member directories – as well as all links for the state bar home pages and attorney grievance information, rules of professional conduct and grievance forms – for the 50 states and DC here.) Interestingly, instead of clicking a button to Search, Start Search or Find A Lawyer, I had to click the word ‘Execute’ to run an online attorney search in North Dakota. Following are the results returned for the searches I conducted:

Alabama Membership Directory: Your search found 0 matches.

Alaska Bar Association Membership Directory: [No result.]

State Bar of Arizona – Find a Lawyer: No Records Found
State Bar of Arizona – Member Finder: Search Results: 0 Attorney Found

Arkansas Licensed Attorney Search: 0 record(s)

California Attorney/Member Search: Your search for vitter returned no results.

Colorado Attorney Status and Disciplinary History: No matches found!
Colorado Attorney Disciplinary (only) History: No matches found!

Connecticut Attorney/Firm Inquiry: No Records Found for Attorney*/Firm Name: vitter

Delaware: No online search available.

Florida Find a Lawyer: Your search yielded no results. Please try again.

State Bar of Georgia Member Directory Search: 0 record(s)

Hawai’i: Authorized to Practice Law: [No result.]
Hawai’i: Not Authorized to Practice Law: [No result.]
Hawai’i: Not Authorized to Practice Law Except Pro Bono Cases: [No result.]
Hawai’i: Pro Hac Vice: [No result.]
Hawai’i: HSBA Member Directory: [No result.]

Idaho Attorney Roster Search: No records returned.

Illinois Lawyer Search: [No result.]

Indiana Supreme Court Roll of Attorneys: No Records Found

Iowa Judicial Branch Search for Lawyers Licensed in Iowa: No Records Exist

Kansas: No online search available.

Kentucky Lawyer Locator: Sorry, no records matched your criteria.

Louisiana State Bar Association Membership Directory Active Member Search: No matches have been found!

Maine Attorney Information Search: No records selected

Maryland Judiciary Attorney Listing: NO RECORDS MATCHED THE SEARCH CRITERIA

Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers Attorney Search by Name or City: [No result.]

State Bar of Michigan Member Directory: No members found.

Minnesota Lawyer Public Discipline Search: [No result.]
Minnesota Judicial Branch Lawyer Search: No records found…

Mississippi Attorney Directory: No results found.

Official Missouri Directory of Lawyers: No results found.

Montana: No online search available.

Nebraska Lawyer Search: Your search returned 0 results.

Nevada Find-A-Lawyer: No records returned.

New Hampshire Member Directory for HHBA members – Requires password: No search conducted.
New Hampshire Member Directory for the Public – Under construction: No search conducted.

New Jersey: No general member directory available
New Jersey: Disciplinary Histories from 1990 through last calendar year: [No result.]

State Bar of New Mexico Attorney/Firm_Finder: Your search has returned no results.

New York Attorney Search: Your search returned no results.

North Carolina State Bar Member Directory: Your search came back empty

North Dakota Lawyers Directory: No documents matched the query

Supreme Court of Ohio Attorney Information Search: 0 Attorneys Found

Oklahoma Bar Association Attorney Search: 0 Attorneys Found

Oregon State Bar Membership Directory: No match found

Pennsylvania Attorney Inquiry Search: 0 records found

Rhode Island Member Directory Search: There are no members with that information.

South Carolina Bar Member Directory: Sorry, there were no results.

South Dakota Lawyer Referral: [No result.]

Tennessee Bar Association Attorney Search: Sorry, no records found.
Online Attorney Directory of the Board of Professional Responsibility: No records were found matching your constraints.

Texas Member Directory: Your search has returned no result.

Utah State Bar Attorney & Associate Member Directory Service: [No result.]

Vermont: No online search available.

Virginia State Bar (Voluntary) Member Directory: Site temporarily down. No search conducted.
Virginia Attorneys Without Malpractice: No matches found.
Virginia State Bar Disciplined Attorneys : No matches found.

Washington State Bar Association (Voluntary) Lawyer Directory: Your search returned no results.

D.C. Bar Member Search: Records matching your search criteria: 0

West Virginia State Bar Association Member Search: [No result.]

State Bar of Wisconsin Lawyer Directory Search: Sorry, no attorney data matches your search …

Wyoming State Bar Membership Directory: Your search found no records.