Leura Garrett Canary

Crossposted at Oxdown Gazette.

Personal Information: Leura Garrett Canary

  • Name: Hon. Leura Garrett Canary
  • Employment: United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama
  • Address: P. O. Box 197, Montgomery, AL 36101-0197
  • Phone: (334) 223-7280
  • Date Admitted: September 25, 1981
  • Law School: University of Alabama

Leura Garrett Canary was nominated by Pres. George W. Bush to be the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Since assuming this position in September 2001, Mrs. Canary has failed to adhere to even the most basic tenets of professional conduct required of her by her membership in the Alabama State Bar, beginning with the Preamble to the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct which states, in part, that

A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges, other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process. [Emphasis supplied.]

The following analysis establishes that Mrs. Canary has violated her obligations under the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct by her continued participation in the prosecution of Gov. Don Siegelman after her supposed recusal from the matter and that her conduct raises a substantial question as to her honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice law. Specifically, Leura Garrett Canary violated the following Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct:

  1. RULE 1.16 DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION
  2. RULE 3.3 CANDOR TOWARD THE TRIBUNAL
  3. RULE 3.4 FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL
  4. RULE 3.5 IMPARTIALITY AND DECORUM OF THE TRIBUNAL
  5. RULE 3.6 TRIAL PUBLICITY
  6. RULE 3.8 SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROSECUTOR
  7. RULE 4.1 THRUTHFULNESS IN STATEMENTS TO OTHERS
  8. RULE 5.1 RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PARTNER OR SUPERVISORY LAWYER
  9. RULE 5.4 PROFESSIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF A LAWYER
  10. RULE 8.3 REPORTING PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT
  11. RULE 8.4 MISCONDUCT

Statement of Facts

On November 7, 2008, Rep. John Conyers, as Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Rep. Linda Sanchez, as Chair of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey in which they succinctly set forth the facts under which Mrs. Canary – allegedly – recused herself from the prosecution of Gov. Don Siegelman:

Department of Justice records show that United States Attorney Leura Canary recused herself from the Siegelman case on May 16, 2002. According to the Acting United States Attorney responsible for the case, “In May 2002, very early in the investigation, and before any significant decisions in the case were made, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary completely recused herself from the Siegelman matter, in response to unfounded accusations that her husband’s Republican ties created a conflict of interest.” [Footnote] 15 Mr. Franklin further explained that “Ms. Canary had no involvement in the case, directly or indirectly, and made no decisions in regards to the investigation or prosecution after her recusal. Immediately following Ms. Canary’s recusal, appropriate steps were taken to ensure the integrity of the recusal, including establishing a ‘firewall’ and moving all documents relating to the investigation to an off-site location. [Footnote] 16 On October 5, 2007, Mr. Franklin stated again “[Leura Canary’s] recusal was scrupulously honored by me.” [Footnote] 17 These statements have been repeated many times and have been relied on by defenders of the Department’s handling of this politically-sensitive matter.

[Footnote] 15 July 18, 2007, Statement of Acting United States Attorney Louis Franklin, available at http://blog.al.com/bn/20007/07/middle_district_of_alabamas_re.html

[Footnote] 16 July 18, 2007, Statement of Acting United States Attorney Louis Franklin, available at http://blog.al.com/bn/20007/07/middle_district_of_alabamas_re.html

[Footnote] 17 October 5, 2007, Statement of Acting United States Attorney Louis Franklin, available at http://www.wsfa.com/global/story.asp?s+7176844&ClientType=Printable

On May 16, 2002, Mrs. Canary clearly and unequivocally declared that she had recused herself from the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman stating in this press release that:

As to any matters pertaining to any current investigation of state officials or matters of state government which may or may not be underway, the Department of Justice has advised me that no actual conflicts of interest exist. However, out of an abundance of caution, I have requested that I be recused to avoid any question about my impartiality.

It is of the utmost importance to me, as a United States Attorney, that the people in the Middle District of Alabama and throughout the State have confidence in the manner in which matters are handled by me and by the office I serve and that no one has a basis under which to question the integrity of any investigation undertaken by my office. To that end, the Department has assigned responsibility for the supervision of any investigation regarding state officials or matters of state government to First Assistant United States Attorney Charles R. Niven.

Scott Horton, a contributor to Harper’s Magazine and author of the weblog No Comment for Harper’s website, has been following the prosecution of Don Siegleman and has written extensively on the subject. In his article September 14, 2007 article The Remarkable ‘Recusal’ of Leura Canary, Prof. Horton identified two material misstatements that raise the question of Mrs. Canary’s honesty regarding her recusal from the case:

I question the honesty of Leura Canary’s statement. First, it makes the claim–continuously repeated–that Mrs. Canary took this step on her own initiative. In fact she took it because of the request that attorney Johnson filed with the Justice Department, which launched an independent look at the matter.

Second, Mrs. Canary says that the Justice Department told her that she was okay from a conflicts perspective. I put the question to two prominent legal ethicists: would the facts I presented require Mrs. Canary’s recusal from the investigation of Governor Siegelman? Answer: “this is not a borderline or close case. Under the facts you outline, Mrs. Canary violated the canons of ethics by undertaking and handling the investigation of Governor Siegelman for the period up to her recusal.” Do you believe that a Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility officer would have advised Mrs. Canary that there was “no actual conflict.” Answer: “The standard that applies is whether there would be an ‘appearance of impartiality,’ not ‘actual conflict,’ so the Canary statement misstates the rule. Nonetheless, here the situation passes far beyond ‘appearance of impartiality’ and reaches an actual conflict. The advice she suggests could not have been competently rendered. It would be very interesting to know who at Justice gave such advice.” …

As far back as September 2007 when he published his article, Prof. Horton questioned whether Mrs. Canary had recused herself in fact and not just in word, noting that Mrs. Canary’s statement that she recused herself is only the beginning of the discussion:

And third, the press statement says she recused herself. But did she?

The question then became follow-through. Career senior Justice Department officials tell me that when a U.S. Attorney recuses him- or herself, there is a standard procedure followed: a conflict of interest certification is prepared and submitted in the matter; a certificate of divestiture is prepared and submitted; “502 determinations” are prepared; there is also other ordinary documentation such as a formal appointment of an acting U.S. attorney to handle the matter, transmittal documentation and the like. The normal process, as I am told, is that a neighboring U.S. Attorney is appointed to handle the matter, usually with support of career professionals who would otherwise report to the recused U.S. Attorney.

I can find no evidence that any of these standard procedures were followed. Instead, according to public statements, a member of Mrs. Canary’s staff was appointed to handle the matter. In fact the person she designated was her principal prosecutor; that is, someone whose career and advancement was dependent directly upon her evaluations, not those of an intermediate staffer. When I reviewed this with a career senior Justice Department official I was told: “That’s very odd, and it violates the basic recusal rules. If the recused U.S. Attorney has appointed one of her staffers, without the supervision of another U.S. Attorney, then she has not really recused herself at all. The staffer operates in her office, under her apparent supervision, subject to her performance evaluations, and receiving her paychecks. The idea that the U.S. Attorney is recused and that the staffer is running the show would be a difficult sale to anyone with eyes and possessed of a brain.” Precisely. The ploy only works when the local media report it and don’t ask any questions or use their analytical faculties.

In September of 2007, the evidence that Mrs. Canary had not recused herself in fact from the prosecution that was available to Prof. Horton was limited to Mrs. Canary’s involvement in several press opportunities:

When charges were announced against Siegelman at a press conference convened in Montgomery, Noel Hillman traveled down to Montgomery to deliver the message (stating, ironically as it turns out, “Public Integrity does not do politics”), and there with him stood Leura Canary. Similarly, as the case proceeded, Leura Canary did not keep any distance from it. She gave interviews to the Los Angeles Times and to the Montgomery Advertiser about the case. Not the conduct of a ‘recused’ U.S. Attorney. [As of November, 17, 2008, linking to the Montgomery Advertiser from the link in Prof. Horton’s article returns a page that states that ‘The article requested can not be found!’]

However, as Rep. Conyers and Rep. Sanchez explain in their letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, documents – obtained by both Prof. Horton and Adam Zagorin – have surfaced that establish that Mrs. Canary did not, as a matter of fact, recuse herself from the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman:

Ms. [Tamarah] Grimes[, an employee of the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama,] has provided several emails[*] casting serious doubts on these assertions, however. The most significant of these emails is a September 19, 2005, email from Ms. Canary to Acting United States Attorney Franklin, Assistant United States Attorneys Feaga and Perrine, First Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Watson (whose last name was Snyder at this time), and criminal legal assistant Debbie Shaw. This email was sent at a critical time in the Siegelman/Scrushy case – Mr. Siegelman had been indicted, although that fact had not been revealed to his attorneys, and the Government was preparing a superceding indictment that would be publicly revealed the following month.

In this email, Ms. Canary forwards an article regarding the Siegelman case and writes: “Ya’ll need to read because he refers to a ‘survey’ which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamians believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated. (Perhaps grounds not to let him discuss court activities in the media?) He also admits to making ‘bad hires’ in his last administration.” [Footnote] 18

This email raises obvious questions about the degree to which Ms. Canary honored her recusal from this case. A recused United States Attorney should not be providing factual information such as relevant news clipping containing a defendant’s statements to the team working on the case under recusal. And this email does not just show Ms. Canary forwarding and article – it reflects her analyzing the article and highlighting certain facts. And most troubling of all it contains a litigation strategy recommendation – that the prosecution should seek to bar Mr. Siegelman from speaking to the media. We note too that it was sent only to members of the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution team – it was not an office wide email that inadvertently reached people working on the case.

[Footnote] 18 September 19, 2005, email from Leura Canary to JB Perrine, Steve Feaga, Louis Franklin, Debbie Shaw and Patricia Snyder.

[*Portions of the images of the e-mails released by Ms. Grimes are printed below.]

Regarding Mrs. Canary’s advice that the prosecution seek a gag order against Gov. Siegelman, Adam Zagorin reported on November 14, 2007 at Time.com that the prosecution team did just that:

Prosecutors in the case seem to have followed Canary’s advice. A few months later they petitioned the court to prevent Siegelman from arguing that politics had any bearing on the case against him. After trial, they persuaded the judge to use Siegelman’s public statements about political bias — like the one Canary had flagged in her e-mail — as grounds for increasing his prison sentence. The judge’s action is now one target of next month’s appeal.

Writing at the Daily Beast, Prof. Horton characterized Mrs. Canary’s conduct in this manner:

Canary, attaching a Siegelman campaign missive to one email, noted that Siegelman claimed that the prosecution is politically motivated and that 67 percent of Alabamans agree with him. Canary suggested that her subordinates obtain a gag order against Siegelman to bar him from making any references to the political nature of the charges brought against him. The communication suggested that Canary’s motivation is, just as Siegelman alleges, political in nature. More significantly, it demonstrates that Canary continued to drive the case notwithstanding her “recusal.”

In fact, the prosecutors sought a gag order against Siegelman and persuaded the judge, a former member of the Executive Committee of the Alabama G.O.P., to ratchet Siegelman’s sentence upwards because he claimed he was a victim of a political prosecution led by Republicans. (Recent polling suggests that Alabamans believe by overwhelming margins that Siegelman was a victim of a political prosecution, and newspaper editorial boards across the state called for his release.)

In another email, Canary’s first assistant referred to Canary making staffing decisions surrounding the prosecution of the Siegelman case long after her “recusal.” These allegations are backed up by the fact that Canary repeatedly appeared at news conferences concerning the Siegelman prosecution and granted at least three press interviews to discuss it—all after she said she had removed herself from the case.

In their letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Rep. Conyers and Rep. Sanchez continue to document Mrs. Canary’s unethical conduct:

Ms. Grimes has provided other documents to the Committee that bear on this issue. In one email, Ms. Canary forwards another another article to essentially the same group of recipients. [Footnote] 19 This too appears improper and again raises the question why a recused United States Attorney would be providing such information to the active prosecution team. Another email notes that Ms. Canary was consulted about the decision to add Ms. Grimes to the Siegelman/Scrushy team – referred to as the “big case” – and states that “Leura and Louis both liked the concept[“] and further reports that “Leura asked me to pass this information [regarding Ms. Grimes’ role on the case] on …[.]” [Footnote] 20 We appreciate that a United States Attorney who is recused from a particular matter will continue to play a role in the overall administration of the office, but question whether participating in detailed discussions about the staffing of the matter from which she has been recused is appropriate and whether messages or information from the recused United States Attorneys should be passed on to new members of the team.

In her July 2007 report to OPR, Ms. Grimes elaborated on this subject, stating that “Leura Canary kept up with every detail of the case through Debbie Shaw and Patricia Watson.” [Footnote] 21 Once again, if this statement is accurate, it raises serious concerns. It is difficult to imagine the reason for a recused United States Attorney to remain so involved in the day to day progress of the matter under recusal.

[Footnote] 19 September 27, 2005, email from Leura Canary to Steve Feaga, Louis Franklin, JB Perrine, and Patricia Snyder.

[Footnote] 20 April 6, 2005, email from Patricia Snyder to Steve Doyle

[Footnote] 21 July 30, 2007 Letter to H. Marshall Jarrett from Tamarah Grimes.

On November 21, 2008, Adam Nossiter at the New York Times reported that:

Yet in her complaint, the Justice Department employee, Tamarah T. Grimes, cited several instances suggesting Ms. Canary maintained a close watch on the case. Ms. Grimes said a legal aide in the office reported on Mr. Siegelman’s trial to Ms. Canary or her top deputy “every day, sometimes several times per day by telephone.” Once, she observed Ms. Canary “frantically pacing in the executive suite” after a courtroom blowup, “pleading with someone” to get on the phone to “tell Louis he has to control his temper.”

Ms. Grimes also disclosed an e-mail message written by Ms. Canary commenting on legal strategy in the case and suggesting to aides that Mr. Siegelman not be allowed to “comment on court activities in the media.” Ms. Grimes, who is also in a dispute with the department related to her accusations that the Siegelman prosecution team had harassed her, cited the affidavit of a former legal aide in the Montgomery office, Elizabeth Jane Crooks, who wrote that “the morning that the trial started, the U.S. attorney herself carried food and beverage over to the courthouse to support the ‘Trial Team.’ ”

Mr. Siegelman’s lawyers have reacted with anger to these contentions, saying they demonstrate that Ms. Canary never really took herself out of the case. “She was supposed to be recused precisely because her involvement would reek of political conflict of interest, yet she remained involved,” they wrote in a filing to the 11th Circuit court this week.

Mrs. Canary has denied any wrongdoing both personally and through her subordinates. In reviewing Mrs. Canary’s conduct, neither her nor Mr. Franklin’s statements that Mrs. Canary recused herself need not – and indeed must not – be accepted at face value. To the contrary, her denials of improper motives or conduct must be evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances. As provided in the adopted Terminology of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct, for Mrs. Canary to believe that her conduct was proper, she must have “actually supposed the fact in question to be true” (which belief “may be inferred from circumstances”) and for that belief to be reasonable requires “that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.”

For example, in her May 16, 2002 press release, Mrs. Canary admitted that “it would not be appropriate for me to discuss any investigations that may or may not be under review in my office.” However, as Prof. Horton notes in his article The Remarkable ‘Recusal’ of Leura Canary, Mrs. Canary made this statement to the Los Angeles Times:

Leura Canary said that suggesting she exerted political influence over the case was “a ridiculous assertion” because it was handled by a career prosecutor, Franklin, in conjunction with the public integrity section of the Justice Department in Washington.

As noted above, Prof. Horton reported on several interactions between Mrs. Canary and the press regarding the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman after her alleged recusal:

When charges were announced against Siegelman at a press conference convened in Montgomery, Noel Hillman traveled down to Montgomery to deliver the message (stating, ironically as it turns out, “Public Integrity does not do politics”), and there with him stood Leura Canary. Similarly, as the case proceeded, Leura Canary did not keep any distance from it. She gave interviews to the Los Angeles Times and to the Montgomery Advertiser about the case. Not the conduct of a ‘recused’ U.S. Attorney. [As of November, 17, 2008, linking to the Montgomery Advertiser from the link in Prof. Horton’s article returns a page that states that ‘The article requested can not be found!’]

Mrs. Canary’s denials were echoed by Louis V. Franklin, Sr., Acting U.S. Attorney in the Siegelman/Scrushy Prosecution:

When the investigation first began, Leura Canary was not the U.S. Attorney for the MDAL. Initially, the investigation was brought to the attention of the Interim U.S. Attorney, Charles Niven, a career prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Niven had almost 25 years of experience as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the office prior to his appointment as Interim U.S. Attorney upon U.S. Attorney Redding Pitt’s (currently attorney of record for Defendant Siegelman in this case) departure.

Ms. Canary became U.S. Attorney in September 2001. In May 2002, very early in the investigation, and before any significant decisions in the case were made, U.S. Attorney Leura Canary completely recused herself from the Siegelman matter, in response to unfounded accusations that her husband’s Republican ties created a conflict of interest. Although Department of Justice officials reviewed the matter and opined that no conflict, actual or apparent, existed, Canary recused herself anyway to avoid even an appearance of impropriety. I, Louis V. Franklin, Sr., was appointed Acting U.S. Attorney in the case after Charles Niven retired in January 2003. I have made all decisions on behalf of this office in the case since my appointment as Acting U.S. Attorney. U.S. Attorney Canary has had no involvement in the case, directly or indirectly, and has made no decisions in regards to the investigation or prosecution since her recusal. Immediately following Canary’s recusal, appropriate steps were taken to ensure that she had no involvement in the case. Specifically, a firewall was established and all documents relating to the investigation were moved to an off-site location. The off-site became the nerve center for most, if not all, work done on this case, including but not limited to the receipt, review, and discussion of evidence gathered during the investigation.

* * *

Armed with cooperation agreements from Bailey, Young and Kirsch, the investigation continued. In June 2004, a special grand jury was convened to further assist in the investigation. An indictment was returned under seal against Mr. Siegelman and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy on May 17, 2005. The first superseding indictment was filed and made public on October 26, 2005, charging Siegelman, Scrushy, Siegelman’s former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick, and Siegelman’s Transportation Director Gary Mack Roberts. …

However, as specifically noted by Rep. Conyers and Rep. Sanchez in their letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, it was during this exact time frame specified by Acting U.S. Attorney Franklin in which Mrs. Canary clearly was not recused in fact from the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman:

The most significant of these emails is a September 19, 2005, email from Ms. Canary to Acting United States Attorney Franklin, Assistant United States Attorneys Feaga and Perrine, First Assistant United States Attorney Patricia Watson (whose last name was Snyder at this time), and criminal legal assistant Debbie Shaw. This email was sent at a critical time in the Siegelman/Scrushy case – Mr. Siegelman had been indicted, although that fact had not been revealed to his attorneys, and the Government was preparing a superceding indictment that would be publicly revealed the following month.

In this email, Ms. Canary forwards an article regarding the Siegelman case and writes: “Ya’ll need to read because he refers to a ‘survey’ which allegedly shows that 67% of Alabamians believe the investigation of him to be politically motivated. (Perhaps grounds not to let him discuss court activities in the media?) He also admits to making ‘bad hires’ in his last administration.” [Footnote] 18

This email raises obvious questions about the degree to which Ms. Canary honored her recusal from this case. A recused United States Attorney should not be providing factual information such as relevant news clipping containing a defendant’s statements to the team working on the case under recusal. And this email does not just show Ms. Canary forwarding and article – it reflects her analyzing the article and highlighting certain facts. And most troubling of all it contains a litigation strategy recommendation – that the prosecution should seek to bar Mr. Siegelman from speaking to the media. We note too that it was sent only to members of the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution team – it was not an office wide email that inadvertently reached people working on the case.

In light of the evidence presented by Ms. Grimes and the contradictions between her actions and her contradictory, self-serving statements, Mrs. Canary’s denials are simply not believable. In short, “a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question” to be improper, and, therefore, Mrs. Canary should have known that her conduct was improper even if she actually (and, in that case, quite incompetently) did not know her conduct was improper.

If the reputations of the Department of Justice and the Alabama State Bar are ever to be salvaged, Mrs. Canary must be investigated by the Alabama State Bar Office of Legal Counsel and referred to the Alabama State Bar Disciplinary Committee to answer for her violations of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. Although the Alabama State Bar Office of Legal Counsel has the authority to begin an investigation on its own volition, a state bar system will not normally begin a formal investigation until it receives a formal complaint. A formal grievance complaint can’t be filed online, but anyone – whether a resident of Alabama or not or otherwise involved in this matter – can easily file a grievance against Mrs. Canary with the Alabama State Bar in just three simple steps:

  1. Print, complete and sign the official Alabama Complaint Against a Lawyer;
  2. Print and attach this page to the Complaint Form as the factual basis for the claim; and
  3. Mail the complaint to the address noted on the Complaint Form.

Rules Violated by Leura Garrett Canary:

  1. RULE 1.16 DECLINING OR TERMINATING REPRESENTATION
  2. RULE 3.3 CANDOR TOWARD THE TRIBUNAL
  3. RULE 3.4 FAIRNESS TO OPPOSING PARTY AND COUNSEL
  4. RULE 3.5 IMPARTIALITY AND DECORUM OF THE TRIBUNAL
  5. RULE 3.6 TRIAL PUBLICITY
  6. RULE 3.8 SPECIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PROSECUTOR
  7. RULE 4.1 THRUTHFULNESS IN STATEMENTS TO OTHERS
  8. RULE 5.1 RESPONSIBILITIES OF A PARTNER OR SUPERVISORY LAWYER
  9. RULE 5.4 PROFESSIONAL INDEPENDENCE OF A LAWYER
  10. RULE 8.3 REPORTING PROFESSIONAL MISCONDUCT
  11. RULE 8.4 MISCONDUCT

*Portions of the images of the e-mails released by Ms. Grimes. The complete images of the e-mails can be found here.

September 19, 2005 e-mail from Leura Garrett Canary:

Image

September 25, 2005 e-mail from Leura Garrett Canary:

Image

April 6, 2005 e-mail from Patricia Snyder to Stephen Doyle:

Image

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

h/ts: Legal Schnauzer, WriteChic Press, at-Largely and capt.

Thanks are also due to Scott Horton for all his contributions to reporting on the Siegelman prosecution.

Text of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Mrs. Canary

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Michael J. Elston

On July 7, 2008, CREW filed a complaint against Michael J. Elston with the Virginia Bar for his role in the illegal politicization of hiring practices at the Department of Justice. However, CREW did not file a complaint with the Illinois, Kansas or Missouri Bars, jurisdictions in which Mr. Elston is also admitted, as explained here, but only sent these associations a copy of the Virginia complaint. More importantly, because the CREW complaint addressed only the illegal politicization of hiring practices at the Department of Justice, CREW notably failed to address Mr. Elston’s role in the politicized firing of several sitting United States Attorneys. As set forth below, Mr. Elston is also in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia regarding his role in the United States Attorney firings.

Personal Information:

  • Name: Michael J. Elston, Partner, McGuireWoods LLP
  • Washington Square, 1050 Connecticut Avenue N.W., Suite 1200
    Washington, District of Columbia 20036-5317
  • Telephone: 202-857-1700, Fax: 202-857-1737

Bar Information: Illinois

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Date of Admission as Lawyer by Illinois Supreme Court: November 10, 1994
  • Registered Business Address: Mcguirewoods LLP
    1750 Tysons Blvd, Suite 1800
    McLean, VA 22102-4231
  • Registered Business Phone: (703) 712-5366
  • Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law
  • Last Registered Year: 2008
  • Malpractice Insurance: (Current as of date of registration; consult attorney for further information) In annual registration, attorney reported that he/she has malpractice coverage.
  • Public Record of Discipline and Pending Proceedings: None

Grievance Information: Illinois

Bar Information: Kansas

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Status: Unknown
  • On July 2, 2008, Amanda Provorse, Attorney Registration, responded to my e-mail request for Mr. Elston’s status with the Kansas Bar that “Mr. Elston is currently active and in good standing. He was admitted 9/29/1998.”

Grievance Information: Kansas

Bar Information: Missouri

Grievance Information: Missouri

Bar Information: Virginia

  • ID No.: N/A
  • Status: Active
  • Registered Address: 1750 Tysons Boulevard, Suite 1800, McLean, VA 22102-4215
  • Registered Phone: 703-712-5366 and Fax: 703-712-5215
  • Member class: Active

Grievance Information: Virginia

While reviewing this matter, it is important to keep in mind that the privilege to practice law imposes duties and responsibilities on each attorney who accepts a license to practice law. These obligations are described in the Preamble to the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct :

The practice of law is a public trust. Lawyers are the trustees of the system by which citizens resolve disputes among themselves, punish and deter crime, and determine their relative rights and responsibilities toward each other and their government. Lawyers therefore are responsible for the character, competence and integrity of the persons whom they assist in joining their profession; for assuring access to that system through the availability of competent legal counsel; for maintaining public confidence in the system of justice by acting competently and with loyalty to the best interests of their clients; by working to improve that system to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing society; and by defending the integrity of the judicial system against those who would corrupt, abuse or defraud it.

To achieve these ends the practice of law is regulated by the following rules. Violation of these rules is grounds for discipline.

* * *

The quality of the legal profession can be no better than that of its members. Lawyers must exercise good judgment and candor in supporting applicants for membership in the bar.

Lawyers also must assist in the policing of lawyer misconduct. The vigilance of the bar in preventing and, where required, reporting misconduct can be a formidable deterrent to such misconduct, and a key to maintaining public confidence in the integrity of the profession as a whole in the face of the egregious misconduct of a few.

These obligations are also expressly stated in the Preamble to the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct, the Preamble to the Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct and the Preamble to the Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct, which provide, in part, that

A lawyer’s conduct should conform to the requirements of the law, both in professional service to clients and in the lawyer’s business and personal affairs. A lawyer should use the law’s procedures only for legitimate purposes and not to harass or intimidate others. A lawyer should demonstrate respect for the legal system and for those who serve it, including judges,
other lawyers and public officials. While it is a lawyer’s duty, when necessary, to challenge the rectitude of official action, it is also a lawyer’s duty to uphold legal process.

* * *

The legal profession’s relative autonomy carries with it special responsibilities of self-government. The profession has a responsibility to assure that its regulations are conceived in the public interest and not in furtherance of parochial or selfinterested concerns of the bar. Every lawyer is responsible for observance of the Rules of Professional Conduct. A lawyer should also aid in securing their observance by other lawyers. Neglect of these responsibilities compromises the independence of the profession and the public interest which it serves.

It is also important to bear in mind that although Mr. Elston denies improper motives or conduct, his denials and protestation must be evaluated based on the totality of the circumstances. As noted in the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, for Mr. Elston to believe that his conduct was proper, he must have “actually supposed the fact in question to be true” (which belief “may be inferred from circumstances”) and for that belief to be reasonable requires “that the circumstances are such that the belief is reasonable.” Additionally, because “a lawyer of reasonable prudence and competence would ascertain the matter in question” to be improper, Mr. Elston reasonably should have known that his conduct was improper.

As detailed more specifically below, Mr. Elston’s conduct violated the following the following rules of professional conduct:

Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct:

Kansas Rules of Professional Conduct

Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct

Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct

File a grievance against Mr. Elston

  1. Print, complete and sign the official Complaint Form for Illinois, Kansas, Missouri (or .pdf) and/or Virginia (or .pdf );
  2. Print and attach this page to the Complaint Form; and
  3. Mail the complaint to the address noted on the Complaint Form.

Allegation: Michael J. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal laws that prohibit the obstruction of justice when he threatened four (4) recently-resigned United States Attorneys.

Michael J. Elston’s participation in the scheme to fire multiple United States Attorneys is at least unethical, if not actually criminal. As set out in greater detail below, Mr. Elston’s role in the firing of numerous United States Attorneys included placing telephone calls to several of these U.S. Attorneys in which he conveyed the threat that the Department of Justice would publicly attack the U.S. Attorneys if they chose to testify to the United States House and Senate. As reported by Paul Kiel at TPMMuckraker on May 2, 2007,

U.S. Attorney for Arizona Paul Charlton told Congress that Michael Elston, the chief of staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, called him and warned him to remain silent. “I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the Attorney General’s,” Charlton wrote in answer to questions from the House Judiciary Committee.

Charlton did not expound on the conversation in his answer, only saying that the call occurred after the firing on December 7th, but before the attorney general testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 18th of this year.

It’s not the first time that Elston has been accused by one of the fired U.S. attorneys of trying to intimidate them into silence. Two others have said the same thing.

U.S. Attorney for Little Rock Bud Cummins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Elston had made a similar call to him in mid-February. Cummins produced an email written the day of the call that clearly laid out the threatening undercurrent to Elston’s message.

And U.S. Attorney for Seattle John McKay has said that he got a call from Elston in December. Newsweek reported that McKay says “he also got a phone call from a ‘clearly nervous’ Elston asking if he intended to go public: ‘He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.'” (Emphasis supplied.)

Prior to this article, Mr. Kiel had reported on the contents of Mr. Cummins’ e-mail on March 7, 2007:

In a February 19th article in The Washington Post, Cummins was quoted on the firings:

“They’re [the Justice Department] entitled to make these changes for any reason or no reason or even for an idiotic reason,… But if they are trying to suggest that people have inferior performance to hide whatever their true agenda is, that is wrong. They should retract those statements.”

The next day, Cummins got a call from Elston. And very unfortunately for the Justice Department, Cummins sent out an email no more than an hour after the call to the other fired prosecutors (you can see it here):

The essence of his message was that they feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us specifically or further, but if they feel like any of us intend to continue to offer quotes to the press, or organize behind the scenes congressional pressure, then they would feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off and offer public criticisms to defend their actions more fully…. I was tempted to challenge him and say something movie-like such as “are you threatening ME???”, but instead I kind of shrugged it off…

Cummins, a lifelong Republican, continues in the email to refer to Elston’s “threat of retaliation” and the “threatening undercurrent in the call.” So it was abundantly clear to him that he was being threatened.

The most inflammatory part of the email is Cummins’ description of Elston’s reaction to the idea of the fired prosecutors testifying before Congress:

“He reacted quite a bit to the idea of anyone voluntarily testifying and it seemed clear that they would see that as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation.”

Mr. Kiel also reported on these comments from fired U.S. Attorney John McKay:

Now another prosecutor, Seattle’s John McKay, says he got a similar call much earlier, before the firings had even been reported. From Newsweek:

After McKay was fired in December, he says he also got a phone call from a “clearly nervous” Elston asking if he intended to go public: “He was offering me a deal: you stay silent and the attorney general won’t say anything bad about you.”

Murray Waas of the National Journal reported on May 3, 2007 these details regarding Mr. Elston’s conduct:

The U.S. attorneys have said that Elston, in effect, told them that if they kept quiet about their dismissals, the Justice Department would not suggest that they had been forced to resign because of poor performance.

* * *

McKay, who was the first of the prosecutors whom Elston called, described Elston’s message to him: “The attorney general was not going to disclose that I or the other U.S. attorneys were fired or forced to resign.… ‘We have no intention of naming people.'”

McKay said that Elston never specifically suggested an explicit quid pro quo whereby Justice officials would not say that McKay had been fired for cause or poor performance if McKay did not talk to the media or Congress about his firing. However, McKay said, “a reasonable person would have felt both offended and threatened” by Elston’s call.

McKay said that the message he took away from the conversation was, “If you remain silent, we will not out you as someone who was forced to resign.”

McKay said that he made contemporaneous notes of his conversation with Elston, and dated them — something, he said, that was not his ordinary practice. He did so because of his concerns about what Elston was telling him, according to McKay.

Charlton said he got a similar phone call from Elston on the same day. In formal response to written questions posed to him by the House Judiciary Committee, Charlton said, “I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.”

Cummins testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 6, at which time a contemporaneous e-mail he wrote within an hour of his phone call with Elston was released. In the e-mail, which he sent to five of his fellow prosecutors, Cummins said that the “essence of [Elston’s] message” was that if any of the fired U.S. attorneys had pressed their case in the media or before Congress, senior aides to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might “feel forced to somehow pull their gloves off” and accuse the prosecutors of ineptitude or poor management.

Cummins also wrote in his e-mail that Elston had called him because he was upset about comments Cummins had made in the press about his firing. “[Justice officials] feel like they are taking unnecessary flak to avoid trashing each of us,” Cummins said in the e-mail to his fellow prosecutors. “I also made it a point to tell him that all of us have turned down multiple invitations to testify. He reacted quite a bit to the idea of anyone voluntarily testifying, and it seemed clear that they would see this as a major escalation of the conflict meriting some kind of unspecified form of retaliation.”

McKay, one of the prosecutors who got the e-mail, said: “[Cummins] wanted to send a message to all of us. We got that message, loud and clear: If you talk to the press or go to Congress, the Department of Justice will not consider you a friend. I considered it an act of intimidation.”

* * *

At the March 6 Senate Judiciary hearing, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., asked Cummins and three others U.S. attorneys what they would have done in their capacity as federal prosecutors had they learned that an interested party in one of their investigations had tried to discourage a witness from providing information or testifying. All four said that they would have investigated the matter to determine a possible obstruction of justice.

“Mr. Cummins, let me ask you first. I’d like to ask you to put your U.S. attorney hat back on,” Whitehouse said. “You’re still in office, and think of a significant grand jury investigation that you led as United States attorney in your district. And consider that a significant witness in that grand jury investigation has just come into your office to relate to you that prior to his grand jury testimony he was approached about his testimony and [told]… essentially exactly the words that Mr. Elston approached you. What would your next step be as United States attorney?”

Cummins responded: “We take intimidation of witnesses very seriously in the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney’s office, so we would be very proactive in that situation.”

Attempting to moderate his statement, he added: “I would qualify that by saying that at the time this discussion was had, we weren’t under a subpoena; the idea of testifying was just kind of a theoretical idea out there. And I would say … to the extent we talked about testimony at all, it was the idea that running out and volunteering to be part of this would not be viewed charitably by the people that it would affect.”

Whitehouse pressed Cummins: “But if that sort of approach had been made to a witness in an active proceeding that you were leading, and you were extremely proactive about it, that would lead you where?”

“Well, we’d certainly investigate it and see if a crime had occurred.”

“And the crime would be?”

Cummins responded: “Obstruction of justice. I think there are several statutes that might be implicated — but obstruction of justice.”

Whitehouse posed the same question to John McKay, the fired U.S. attorney from Washington state.

McKay responded: “I would be discussing it with the assigned prosecutor and federal agents.”

“With regard to?”

“With regard to possible obstruction of justice.”

Whitehouse next put the question to David Iglesias, the fired U.S. attorney from New Mexico:

Iglesias replied: “Same answer, sir. I would contact the career [assistant U.S. attorney] and probably the FBI and talk about what’s the evidence we have to maybe move forward on an obstruction investigation.

Finally, Whitehouse looked toward Carol Lam, the fired U.S. attorney from San Diego.

She answered without hesitation: “Fundamentally the same answer: witness intimidation.” (Emphasis supplied.)

Lara Jakes Jordan adds in this article on June 16, 2007:

“I believe that Elston was offering me a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s,” wrote Paul Charlton, the former U.S. attorney in Nevada.

John McKay, former top prosecutor in Seattle, said he perceived a threat from Elston during his call. And Carol Lam, who was U.S. attorney in San Diego, said that “during one phone call, Michael Elston erroneously accused me of ‘leaking’ my dismissal to the press, and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys.”

A fourth former U.S. attorney, Bud Cummins in Little Rock, Ark., had made a similar accusation in an e-mail released in March. At the time, Elston said he was “shocked and baffled” that his Feb. 20 conversation with Cummins could be interpreted as threatening.

Finally, Dan Eggen and Amy Goldstein report in the Washington Post on June 16, 2007:

Former U.S. attorney John McKay of Seattle told Congress that on Jan. 17 — before McKay stepped down — he received a call from Elston that he “greatly resented.” He said Elston attempted to “buy my silence by promising that the attorney general would not demean me in his Senate testimony.”

“My handwritten and dated notes of this call,” McKay told Congress, “reflect that I believed Mr. Elston’s tone was sinister and that he was prepared to threaten me further if he concluded I did not intend to continue to remain silent about my dismissal.”

Paul K. Charlton, who was the U.S. attorney in Phoenix, said that he, too, received a call that day in which Elston offered “a quid pro quo agreement: my silence in exchange for the attorney general’s.” Another former prosecutor, Carol C. Lam of San Diego, said Elston accused her of “leaking” word of her dismissal to the press “and criticized me for talking to other dismissed U.S. attorneys.”

Former U.S. attorney Bud Cummins of Little Rock also recounted a Feb. 20 conversation with Elston that Cummins said contained a “threatening undercurrent” warning that Justice Department officials would retaliate if he or his colleagues spoke to journalists or volunteered to testify in Congress.

As described by fired United States Attorneys John McKay, Bud Cummins, Paul Charlton and Carol Lam and as reported in the public record as noted above, the conduct of Mr. Elston clearly establishes that he committed criminal or deliberately wrongful acts that reflects adversely on the his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness to practice law. Additionally, Mr. Elston clearly engaged in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

Allegation 2:

Michael J. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal laws that prohibit politicization of hiring within the Department of Justice when he selected candidates for employment based on political criteria.

As described in thisletter to Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, and The Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, Committee on the Judiciary, United States House of Representatives from A Group of Concerned Department of Justice Employees, dated April 9, 2007, Mr. Elston engaged in conduct that was a violation of federal hiring laws:

Needless to say, many people were upset and confused. Why had so many potential interviewees been removed from the list? [Italics in original] Top supervisors requested answers, and on December 5 a meeting was held with Michael Ellston [sic], Chief of Staff to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty. Many division attorneys and staff were present, and Mr. Ellston [sic] was offensive to the point of insulting. Claiming that the entire group had not “done their jobs” in reviewing applicants, he said that he had a “screening panel” go over the list and research these candidates on the Internet; he refused to give the names of those on his “panel.” Mr. Ellston [sic] said that people were struck from the list for three reasons:grades, spelling errors on applications, and inappropriate information about them on the Internet, When the meeting attendees protested that these interviewees had excellent grades, Mr. Ellston [sic]replied that a Harvard graduate in the bottom half of the class was more desirable than the top students at a second-tier law schools. Although Mr. Ellston [sic] stated that he would entertain appeals to his decisions, few of these appeals were granted.

When division personnel staff later compared the remaining interviewees with the candidates struck from the list, one common denominator appeared repeatedly: most of those struck from the list had interned for a Hill Democrat, clerked for a Democratic judge, worked for a “liberal” cause, or otherwise appeared to have “liberal” leanings. Summa cum laude graduates of both Yale and Harvard were rejected for interviews. There are also reports that officials at Harvard’s Career Placement Office called DOJ personnel to ask why their students were not getting interviews and also to ask why decisions had not yet been made about the Summer Law Intern Program.

These allegations were confirmed by the United States Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility and Office of the Inspector Generals in their report,An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring in the Department of Justice Honors Program and Summer Law Intern Program, which provided the following details regarding Mr. Elston’s conduct:

…. However, we believe the most significant misconduct was committed by ELSTON, the head of the Screening Committee. ELSTON failed to take appropriate action when he learned that McDonald was routinely deselecting candidates on the basis of what she perceived to be the candidates’ liberal affiliations. We also concluded that ELSTON deselected some candidates – and allowed the deselection of others – based on impermissible considerations.

* * *

As explained below, we concluded that ELSTON violated federal law and Department policy by deselecting candidates based on their liberal affiliations. First, the data analysis indicates that highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic Party affiliations were deselected at a much higher rate than highly qualified candidates with conservative or Republican Party affiliations. Second, ELSTON admitted that he may have deselected candidates in a few instances due to their affiliations with certain liberal causes. ELSTON also was unable in specific cases to give a credible reason as to why highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic Party affiliations were deselected.

While ELSTON generally denied that he considered political or ideological affiliations in evaluating candidates, he admitted when questioned about certain candidates that he considered aspects of those candidates’ ideological affiliations in his evaluation. ….

In addition, ELSTON consistently was unable to provide credible explanations as to why he denied the appeals of the highly qualified candidates who had liberal or Democratic Party affiliations. His proffered reasons were also inconsistent with other statements he made or actions he took. ….

Similarly, we did not find credible ELSTON’s explanation that he may have denied the appeal of a highly qualified candidate who had worked for the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military because he concluded the candidate would not “stand up for the law with respect to sentencing and Department policy” due to the statement in her essay that she would be able to exercise prosecutorial discretion as a federal prosecutor. We also did not credit ELSTON’s other explanation for denying this candidate – that she was not academically qualified because she was in the top third rather than the top quarter of her class at Stanford Law – since it was inconsistent with his actions in approving other candidates from lower-tier law schools with lower grades. During his interview, ELSTON also frequently pointed to lines in candidates’ essays that may have been a basis for deselecting candidates because he said these statements could be indications that the candidates would improperly follow their own consciences rather than the Department’s policies. These included statements such as the candidate wanting to work for the Department because the job would allow the candidate “to consider what is best for my country.”

In addition to ELSTON’s failure to provide credible explanations for his actions during his interview, we concluded that ELSTON was not candid with others in the Department who questioned him during the hiring process about why candidates were being deselected. ….

Moreover, ELSTON tried to minimize his role in selecting candidates when he was questioned by others about the Committee’s decisions. ELSTON frequently explained that other Committee members had been responsible for the decisions and described his role as a conduit. However, the evidence demonstrated that he was casting the deciding vote on a significant number of candidates that Fridman had approved and McDonald had rejected.

In sum, we found that ELSTON was aware that McDonald was rejecting candidates based on her perception of the candidates’ political or ideological affiliations and that he failed to intervene, discuss it with her, or stop her from doing so. We also concluded that ELSTON committed misconduct, and violated federal law and Department policy, when he deselected candidates and denied appeals based on his perception of the political or ideological affiliations of the candidates.

* * *

IV. Conclusions and Recommendations

* * *

The documentary evidence and witness interviews also support the conclusion that two members of the 2006 Screening Committee, Esther Slater McDonald and Michael ELSTON, took political or ideological affiliations into account in deselecting candidates in violation of Department policy and federal law. For example, the evidence showed that McDonald wrote disparaging statements about candidates’ liberal and Democratic Party affiliations on the applications she reviewed and that she voted to deselect candidates on that basis.

We also found that ELSTON, the head of the 2006 Screening Committee, failed to take appropriate action when he learned that McDonald was routinely deselecting candidates on the basis of what she perceived to be the candidates’ liberal affiliations. The evidence also showed that ELSTON himself deselected some candidates – and allowed the deselection of others – based on impermissible considerations. Despite his initial denial in our interview that he did not consider such inappropriate factors, he later admitted in the interview that he may have deselected candidates in a few instances due to their affiliation with certain causes. In addition, ELSTON was unable to give a credible reason as to why specific highly qualified candidates with liberal or Democratic credentials were deselected.

We concluded that, as a result of the actions of McDonald and ELSTON, many qualified candidates were deselected by the Screening Committee because of their perceived political or ideological affiliations. We believe that McDonald’s and ELSTON’s conduct constituted misconduct and also violated the Department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations.

However, because both McDonald and ELSTON have resigned from the Department, they are no longer subject to discipline by the Department for their actions. Nevertheless, we recommend that the Department consider the findings in this report should either McDonald or ELSTON apply in the future for another position with the Department.

[Footnote] 59 However, we found evidence that McDonald knew that using political and ideological affiliation was inappropriate, but did it anyway. As noted above, in an e-mail dated October 25, 2006, unrelated to the Honors Program and SLIP, McDonald advised a friend applying for a career position with the Department “there’s not much I can do apart from recommending you because there are legal constraints on career hiring to ensure that it’s not political.”

[Footnote] 60 Although ELSTON stated that he did not know whether McDonald’s no votes were actually based upon the negative comments she was making about the candidates’ liberal affiliations, we found that statement disingenuous. Fridman told ELSTON that McDonald was doing this, and the notations on the applications, which ELSTON recognized as McDonald’s handwriting, showed that McDonald was circling and commenting on these groups. Moreover, many of these candidates had stellar credentials, and there was no other apparent reason for McDonald recommending their deselection.

[Footnote] 61 OPR Counsel H. Marshall Jarrett recused himself from the evaluation of DeFalaise’s conduct.

(Emphasis supplied.)

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Text of the Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Mr. Elston.

Update: Harriet E. Miers

I have updated the statement of facts alleging various violations by Harriet E. Miers of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct with the recent Memorandum Opinion in COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES v. HARRIET MIERS, et al., Civil Action No. 08-0409 (JDB). in which United States District Judge John D. Bates confirms conduct of Ms. Miers that calls into question her fitness to practice law.

Personal Information:

  • Name: Miers, Harriet E.
  • Bar: Texas
  • ID No: 00000067
  • Status: Active

Grievance Information: Texas

Allegations:

Willful Failure to Appear pursuant to a Lawful United States House Judiciary Committee Subpoena

On June 13, 2007, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., and Sen Patrick Leahy, as Chairmen of the United States House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary, respectively, issued multiple subpoenas to former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to produce certain requested documents and to appear for testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on July 12, 2007. See Conyers: Are Subpoenas Optional or Not?, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 12, 2007; See also page 39, Memorandum to the Members of the Committee on the Judiciary from Rep. John C. Conyers, Jr., Chairman, dated July 24, 2007. On July 9, 2007, George Manning, attorney for Ms. Miers, informed the House Committee that Ms. Miers would “comply with the White House ‘direction[]’ by current White House Counsel Fred Fielding who “‘directed’ Ms. Miers not to provide testimony to the Committee. Id. at page 41. Chairman Conyers and Subcommittee Chair Linda Sanchez wrote to Mr. Manning stating “that it was incumbent on Ms. Miers to appear so that the Subcommittee could consider her claims of privilege concerning specific documents or in response to particular questions posed as the hearing. Id. Ms. Miers failed to appear before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on July 12, 2007. Id. at page 42. After failing to appear, and in response to an inquiry by Chairman Conyers, “Mr. Manning informed Chairmen Conyers on July 17, 2007, that his client intended to remain noncom pliant with the subpoena. Id . In the Memorandum, Chairman Conyers states:

Even more extraordinary than the executive privilege claims in this matter is the assertion that Ms. Miers, a former White House official not currently employed by the federal government, is absolutely immune from even appearing before the Subcommittee as directed by subpoena. The Supreme Court has specifically held that even a President, while serving in that capacity, can be subpoena by a court and can be required to participate in a civil lawsuit for damages by a private party. [FN 281] The Court’s holding in Jones flies in the face of the claim that a former White House official is somehow immune from even appearing in response to a Congressional subpoena. As with Sara Taylor, who received a subpoena similar to Ms. Miers’ but chose to appear and answer some questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, no one can doubt that Ms. Miers would have been asked some questions that would not have fallen within even the broadest assertion of executive privilege, but Ms. Miers simply refused to attend her hearing altogether. Id .

* * *

[T]here is an additional reason that Ms. Miers’ claims concerning executive privilege were and should be rejected. When a private party like Ms. Miers is subject to a subpoena, it is improper for the subpoenaed person simply to refuse to … testify based on an assertion of privilege by a third party, in this case, the White House. … To the extent that the White House objected to the subpoena to Ms. Miers as a private citizen, therefore, its proper recourse – which would have been more than adequate to protect its own asserted rights – would have been to seek a court order, rather than unilaterally “directing” Ms. Miers to disobey a lawful subpoena herself. Id. at page 46.

* * *

[M]s. Miers was not being misled by a government entity into thinking she was acting lawfully, but instead she chose, with full knowledge of the possible consequences, to follow the White House’s flawed “directive.” As the entity which issued the subpoena to Ms. Miers, only the Committee was in a position to give her “reasonable reliance” that she could lawfully refuse to comply, but in fact the Committee did precisely the opposite and made clear that she was required to obey her subpoena. Id. at page 48. (emphasis in original)

* * *

As explained in the July 12 and July 19 rulings upheld by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, the refusal … of Ms. Miers to testify or even appear pursuant to subpoena [has] no proper legal basis. Id. at page 52. FN 281 See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 703-06 (1997). As the Court noted in United States v. Bryan, 339 U.S. 323-331 (1950), “persons summoned as witnesses have certain minimum duties and obligations which as necessary concessions to the public interest in the orderly operation of legislative and judicial machinery. …We have often iterated the importance of this public duty, which every person within the jurisdiction of the Government is bound to perform when properly summoned.”

As a result of her refusal to appear before the Subcommittee pursuant to a lawful subpoena, the House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt of Congress citation against Ms. Miers. House Democrats Approve Contempt of Congress Citations Wednesday Against 2 Presidential Aides, Laurie Kellman, AP News, July 25, 2007. See also House Committee Approves Contempt Citation, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 25, 2007. Ms. Miers failure to appear pursuant to subpoena and her receipt of a contempt of Congress citation violate her ethical obligations under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct .

Chairman Conyers’ position has been upheld by United States District Judge John D. Bates in COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES v. HARRIET MIERS, et al., Civil Action No. 08-0409 (JDB). In his Memorandum Opinion, Judge Bates introduced the position taken by Ms.Miers as unprecedented, is without any support in the case law and fallacious:

Indeed, the aspect of this lawsuit that is unprecedented is the notion that Ms. Miers is absolutely immune from compelled congressional process. The Supreme Court has reserved absolute immunity for very narrow circumstances, involving the President’s personal exposure to suits for money damages based on his official conduct or concerning matters of national security or foreign affairs. The Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law. The fallacy of that claim was presaged in United States v. Nixon itself (id. at 706):

neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of highlevel communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial [or congressional] process under all circumstances.

Id. at p. 3.

In footnote 1 of his Opinion, Judge Bates’ states that “The Court will refer to the defendants in this action, and to the executive branch and the current administration generally, as “the Executive.” Id. at p. 2. Accordingly, each and every reference to the Executive is a reference to, inter alia, Mr. Miers.

Because Ms. Miers presented no legitimate claim for absolute immunity, Judge Bates rules that Ms. Miers must, in fact, appear pursuant to the validly issued subpoenas of the United States House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary:

Clear precedent and persuasive policy reasons confirm that the Executive cannot be the
judge of its own privilege and hence Ms. Miers is not entitled to absolute immunity from
compelled congressional process. Ms. Miers is not excused from compliance with the
Committee’s subpoena by virtue of a claim of executive privilege that may ultimately be made. Instead, she must appear before the Committee to provide testimony, and invoke executive privilege where appropriate. [Footnote] 38 [is not included herein] And as the Supreme Court has directed, the judiciary remains the ultimate arbiter of an executive privilege claim, since it is the duty of the courts to declare what the law is. See United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. at 703-05; see also Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) at 177.

Id. at p. 91.

In his analysis, Judge Bates provided an exhaustive review of the facts and then summarized the underlying facts in this matter:

The undisputed factual record, then, establishes the following. Notwithstanding a prolonged period of negotiation, [Footnote] 7[,] the parties reached a self-declared impasse with respect to the document production and testimony at issue here. Faced with that reality, the full House of Representatives voted to hold Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in contempt of Congress and certified the Contempt Report to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue criminal enforcement of the contempt citations. The Attorney General then directed the U.S. Attorney not to proceed against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten. The Committee, then, filed this suit seeking civil enforcement of its subpoena authority by way of declaratory and injunctive relief.

[Footnote] 7 Mr. Fielding’s final letter to Chairman Conyers reveals that the Chairmen had “written ‘on eight previous occasions,’ three of which letters contain or incorporate specific proposals involving terms for a possible agreement.” See Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 34.

Id. at pp. 16-17.

Judge Bates also addresses Ms. Miers’ claim of absolute immunity, which was the basis for her refusal to even appear before the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary:

The Executive maintains that absolute immunity shields Ms. Miers from compelled testimony before Congress. Although the exact reach of this proposed doctrine is not clear, the Executive insists that it applies only to “a very small cadre of senior advisors.” See Tr. at 96. The argument starts with the assertion that the President himself is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony. There is no case that stands for that exact proposition, but the Executive maintains that the conclusion flows logically from Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731 (1982), where the Supreme Court held that the President “is entitled to absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts.” Id. at 749. “Any such [congressional] power of compulsion over the President,” the Executive asserts, “would obviously threaten his independence and autonomy from Congress in violation of separation of powers principles.” See Defs.’ Reply at 40. The Executive then contends that “[those] same principles apply just as clearly to the President’s closest advisers.” Id. Because senior White House advisers “have no operational authority over government agencies . . . [t]heir sole function is to advise and assist the President in the exercise of his duties.” Id. at 41. Therefore, they must be regarded as the President’s “alter ego.” In a similar context, the Supreme Court has extended Speech or Debate Clause immunity to legislative aides who work closely with Members of Congress. See Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, 616-17 (1972). Accordingly, forcing close presidential advisors to testify before Congress would be tantamount to compelling the President himself to do so, a plainly untenable result in the Executive’s view. Indeed, as the Executive would have it, “[w]ere the President’s closest advisers subject to compelled testimony there would be no end to the demands that effectively could be placed upon the President himself.” See Defs.’ Reply at 43.

Unfortunately for the Executive, this line of argument has been virtually foreclosed by the
Supreme Court. In Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), the plaintiff sued “senior White
House aides” for civil damages arising out of the defendants’ official actions. Id. at 802. The defendants argued that they were “entitled to a blanket protection of absolute immunity as an incident of their offices as Presidential aides.” Id. at 808. The Supreme Court rejected that position. Notwithstanding the absolute immunity extended to legislators, judges, prosecutors, and the President himself, the Court emphasized that “[f]or executive officials in general, however, our cases make plain that qualified immunity represents the norm.” Id. at 807. Although there can be no doubt regarding “the importance to the President of loyal and efficient subordinates in executing his duties of office, . . . these factors, alone, [are] insufficient to justify absolute immunity.” Id. at 808-09 (discussing Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478 (1978)).

Id. at pp. 79-80.

Judge Bates continues to decimate Ms. Miers’ claim of absolute immunity:

There is nothing left to the Executive’s primary argument in light of Harlow. This case, of course, does not involve national security or foreign policy, and the Executive does not invoke that mantra. The derivative, “alter ego” immunity that the Executive requests here due to Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s close proximity to and association with the President has been explicitly and definitively rejected, and there is no basis for reaching a different conclusion here. Indeed, the Executive asks this Court to recognize precisely the type of blanket derivative absolute immunity that the Supreme Court declined to acknowledge in Harlow.

Id. at pp. 81-82.

Judge Bates also expressly pointed out that there is NO judicial precedent for Ms. Miers’ claims:

Thus, it would hardly be unprecedented for Ms. Miers to appear before Congress to testify and assert executive privilege where appropriate. Still, it is noteworthy that in an environment where there is no judicial support whatsoever for the Executive’s claim of absolute immunity, the historical record also does not reflect the wholesale compulsion by Congress of testimony from senior presidential advisors that the Executive fears. [Emphasis in original.]

Id. at pp. 83-84.

And that Ms. Miers’ claims are based solely on two (2) legal opinions issued by the Executive Branch itself:

Tellingly, the only authority that the Executive can muster in support of its absolute
immunity assertion are two OLC opinions authored by Attorney General Janet Reno and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury, respectively.

* * *

[T]he Court is not at all persuaded by the Reno and Bradbury opinions.

Id. at pp. 85-86.

Since Ms. Miers’ failure to appear pursuant to validly issued subpoenas is not supported by any colorable basis in law, her failure to appear is in violation of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Accordingly, Ms. Miers’ conduct calls into question her fitness to practice law.

Supporting Links:

Conyers: Are Subpoenas Optional or Not?, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 12, 2007

Memorandum to the Members of the Committee on the Judiciary regarding Full Committee Consideration of Report on the Refusal of Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to Comply with Subpoenas By the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John C. Conyers, Jr., Chairman, July 24, 2007

House Democrats Approve Contempt of Congress Citations Wednesday Against 2 Presidential Aides, Laurie Kellman, AP News, July 25, 2007

House Committee Approves Contempt Citation, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 25, 2007

Rules Violated:

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E-mail to House Judiciary Committee regarding John Yoo

U.S House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary via Committee Contact Form

Honorable John Conyers, Jr., Chairman, via House Contact Form

Hon. Howard L. Berman via House Contact Form

Hon. Rick Boucher via House Contact Form

Hon. Jerrold Nadler via House Contact Form

Hon. Robert C. Scott via House Contact Form

Hon. Melvin L. Watt via House Contact Form

Hon. Zoe Lofgren via House Contact Form

Hon. Sheila Jackson Lee via House Contact Form

Hon. Maxine Waters via House Contact Form

Hon. William D. Delahunt via e-mail

Hon. Robert Wexler via House Contact Form

Hon. Linda T. Sánchez via House Contact Form

Hon. Steve Cohen via House Contact Form

Hon. Hank Johnson via House Contact Form

Hon. Betty Sutton via House Contact Form

Hon. Luis Gutierrez via House Contact Form

Hon. Brad Sherman via House Contact Form

Hon. Tammy Baldwin via House Contact Form

Hon. Anthony D. Weiner via House Contact Form

Hon. Adam B. Schiff via House Contact Form

Hon. Artur Davis via House Contact Form

Hon. Debbie Wasserman Schultz via House Contact Form

Hon. Keith Ellison via House Contact Form

Dear Chairman Conyers and Democratic Members of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary:

I have been researching the conduct of various attorneys in the service of the government of the United States, whether that conduct is a violation of the rules of professional conduct with which each such attorney must comply and authoring factual allegations of conduct that establish violations of the applicable rules of professional responsibility, including John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, D. Kyle Sampson, and Harriet Miers. In my opinion, Professor Yoo has committed numerous violations of the rules of professional conduct of Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., that raise a substantial question as to his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer.

Please consider questioning Professor Yoo regarding his unethical conduct as an attorney with the Department of Justice.

E.M.

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Harriet E. Miers

I have updated the statement of facts alleging various violations by Harriet E. Miers of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct with the recent Memorandum Opinion in COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES v. HARRIET MIERS, et al., Civil Action No. 08-0409 (JDB). in which United States District Judge John D. Bates confirms conduct of Ms. Miers that calls into question her fitness to practice law.

Personal Information:

  • Name: Miers, Harriet E.
  • Bar: Texas
  • ID No: 00000067
  • Status: Active

Grievance Information: Texas

Allegations:

Willful Failure to Appear pursuant to a Lawful United States House Judiciary Committee Subpoena

On June 13, 2007, Rep. John Conyers, Jr., and Sen Patrick Leahy, as Chairmen of the United States House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary, respectively, issued multiple subpoenas to former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to produce certain requested documents and to appear for testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law on July 12, 2007. See Conyers: Are Subpoenas Optional or Not?, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 12, 2007; See also page 39, Memorandum to the Members of the Committee on the Judiciary from Rep. John C. Conyers, Jr., Chairman, dated July 24, 2007. On July 9, 2007, George Manning, attorney for Ms. Miers, informed the House Committee that Ms. Miers would “comply with the White House ‘direction[]’ by current White House Counsel Fred Fielding who “‘directed’ Ms. Miers not to provide testimony to the Committee. Id. at page 41. Chairman Conyers and Subcommittee Chair Linda Sanchez wrote to Mr. Manning stating “that it was incumbent on Ms. Miers to appear so that the Subcommittee could consider her claims of privilege concerning specific documents or in response to particular questions posed as the hearing. Id. Ms. Miers failed to appear before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on July 12, 2007. Id. at page 42. After failing to appear, and in response to an inquiry by Chairman Conyers, “Mr. Manning informed Chairmen Conyers on July 17, 2007, that his client intended to remain noncom pliant with the subpoena. Id . In the Memorandum, Chairman Conyers states:

Even more extraordinary than the executive privilege claims in this matter is the assertion that Ms. Miers, a former White House official not currently employed by the federal government, is absolutely immune from even appearing before the Subcommittee as directed by subpoena. The Supreme Court has specifically held that even a President, while serving in that capacity, can be subpoena by a court and can be required to participate in a civil lawsuit for damages by a private party. [FN 281] The Court’s holding in Jones flies in the face of the claim that a former White House official is somehow immune from even appearing in response to a Congressional subpoena. As with Sara Taylor, who received a subpoena similar to Ms. Miers’ but chose to appear and answer some questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee, no one can doubt that Ms. Miers would have been asked some questions that would not have fallen within even the broadest assertion of executive privilege, but Ms. Miers simply refused to attend her hearing altogether. Id .

* * *

[T]here is an additional reason that Ms. Miers’ claims concerning executive privilege were and should be rejected. When a private party like Ms. Miers is subject to a subpoena, it is improper for the subpoenaed person simply to refuse to … testify based on an assertion of privilege by a third party, in this case, the White House. … To the extent that the White House objected to the subpoena to Ms. Miers as a private citizen, therefore, its proper recourse – which would have been more than adequate to protect its own asserted rights – would have been to seek a court order, rather than unilaterally “directing” Ms. Miers to disobey a lawful subpoena herself. Id. at page 46.

* * *

[M]s. Miers was not being misled by a government entity into thinking she was acting lawfully, but instead she chose, with full knowledge of the possible consequences, to follow the White House’s flawed “directive.” As the entity which issued the subpoena to Ms. Miers, only the Committee was in a position to give her “reasonable reliance” that she could lawfully refuse to comply, but in fact the Committee did precisely the opposite and made clear that she was required to obey her subpoena. Id. at page 48. (emphasis in original)

* * *

As explained in the July 12 and July 19 rulings upheld by the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, the refusal … of Ms. Miers to testify or even appear pursuant to subpoena [has] no proper legal basis. Id. at page 52. FN 281 See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 703-06 (1997). As the Court noted in United States v. Bryan, 339 U.S. 323-331 (1950), “persons summoned as witnesses have certain minimum duties and obligations which as necessary concessions to the public interest in the orderly operation of legislative and judicial machinery. …We have often iterated the importance of this public duty, which every person within the jurisdiction of the Government is bound to perform when properly summoned.”

As a result of her refusal to appear before the Subcommittee pursuant to a lawful subpoena, the House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt of Congress citation against Ms. Miers. House Democrats Approve Contempt of Congress Citations Wednesday Against 2 Presidential Aides, Laurie Kellman, AP News, July 25, 2007. See also House Committee Approves Contempt Citation, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 25, 2007. Ms. Miers failure to appear pursuant to subpoena and her receipt of a contempt of Congress citation violate her ethical obligations under the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct .

Chairman Conyers’ position has been upheld by United States District Judge John D. Bates in COMMITTEE ON THE JUDICIARY, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES v. HARRIET MIERS, et al., Civil Action No. 08-0409 (JDB). In his Memorandum Opinion, Judge Bates introduced the position taken by Ms.Miers as unprecedented, is without any support in the case law and fallacious:

Indeed, the aspect of this lawsuit that is unprecedented is the notion that Ms. Miers is absolutely immune from compelled congressional process. The Supreme Court has reserved absolute immunity for very narrow circumstances, involving the President’s personal exposure to suits for money damages based on his official conduct or concerning matters of national security or foreign affairs. The Executive’s current claim of absolute immunity from compelled congressional process for senior presidential aides is without any support in the case law. The fallacy of that claim was presaged in United States v. Nixon itself (id. at 706):

neither the doctrine of separation of powers, nor the need for confidentiality of highlevel communications, without more, can sustain an absolute, unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial [or congressional] process under all circumstances.

Id. at p. 3.

In footnote 1 of his Opinion, Judge Bates’ states that “The Court will refer to the defendants in this action, and to the executive branch and the current administration generally, as “the Executive.” Id. at p. 2. Accordingly, each and every reference to the Executive is a reference to, inter alia, Mr. Miers.

Because Ms. Miers presented no legitimate claim for absolute immunity, Judge Bates rules that Ms. Miers must, in fact, appear pursuant to the validly issued subpoenas of the United States House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary:

Clear precedent and persuasive policy reasons confirm that the Executive cannot be the
judge of its own privilege and hence Ms. Miers is not entitled to absolute immunity from
compelled congressional process. Ms. Miers is not excused from compliance with the
Committee’s subpoena by virtue of a claim of executive privilege that may ultimately be  made.

Instead, she must appear before the Committee to provide testimony, and invoke executive
privilege where appropriate. [Footnote] 38 [is not included herein] And as the Supreme Court has directed, the judiciary remains the ultimate arbiter of an executive privilege claim, since it is the duty of the courts to declare what the law is. See United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. at 703-05; see also Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) at 177.

Id. at p. 91.

In his analysis, Judge Bates provided an exhaustive review of the facts and then summarized the underlying facts in this matter:

The undisputed factual record, then, establishes the following. Notwithstanding a prolonged period of negotiation, [Footnote] 7[,] the parties reached a self-declared impasse with respect to the document production and testimony at issue here. Faced with that reality, the full House of Representatives voted to hold Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten in contempt of Congress and certified the Contempt Report to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to pursue criminal enforcement of the contempt citations. The Attorney General then directed the U.S. Attorney not to proceed against Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten. The Committee, then, filed this suit seeking civil enforcement of its subpoena authority by way of declaratory and injunctive relief.

[Footnote] 7 Mr. Fielding’s final letter to Chairman Conyers reveals that the Chairmen had “written ‘on eight previous occasions,’ three of which letters contain or incorporate specific proposals involving terms for a possible agreement.” See Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 34.

Id. at pp. 16-17.

Judge Bates also addresses Ms. Miers’ claim of absolute immunity, which was the basis for her refusal to even appear before the House and Senate Committees on the Judiciary:

The Executive maintains that absolute immunity shields Ms. Miers from compelled testimony before Congress. Although the exact reach of this proposed doctrine is not clear, the Executive insists that it applies only to “a very small cadre of senior advisors.” See Tr. at 96. The argument starts with the assertion that the President himself is absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony. There is no case that stands for that exact proposition, but the Executive maintains that the conclusion flows logically from Nixon v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 731 (1982), where the Supreme Court held that the President “is entitled to absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts.” Id. at 749. “Any such [congressional] power of compulsion over the President,” the Executive asserts, “would obviously threaten his independence and autonomy from Congress in violation of separation of powers principles.” See Defs.’ Reply at 40. The Executive then contends that “[those] same principles apply just as clearly to the President’s closest advisers.” Id. Because senior White House advisers “have no operational authority over government agencies . . . [t]heir sole function is to advise and assist the President in the exercise of his duties.” Id. at 41. Therefore, they must be regarded as the President’s “alter ego.” In a similar context, the Supreme Court has extended Speech or Debate Clause immunity to legislative aides who work closely with Members of Congress. See Gravel v. United States, 408 U.S. 606, 616-17 (1972). Accordingly, forcing close presidential advisors to testify before Congress would be tantamount to compelling the President himself to do so, a plainly untenable result in the Executive’s view. Indeed, as the Executive would have it, “[w]ere the President’s closest advisers subject to compelled testimony there would be no end to the demands that effectively could be placed upon the President himself.” See Defs.’ Reply at 43.

Unfortunately for the Executive, this line of argument has been virtually foreclosed by the
Supreme Court. In Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982), the plaintiff sued “senior White
House aides” for civil damages arising out of the defendants’ official actions. Id. at 802. The
defendants argued that they were “entitled to a blanket protection of absolute immunity as an incident of their offices as Presidential aides.” Id. at 808. The Supreme Court rejected that
position. Notwithstanding the absolute immunity extended to legislators, judges, prosecutors, and the President himself, the Court emphasized that “[f]or executive officials in general, however, our cases make plain that qualified immunity represents the norm.” Id. at 807. Although there can be no doubt regarding “the importance to the President of loyal and efficient subordinates in executing his duties of office, . . . these factors, alone, [are] insufficient to justify absolute immunity.” Id. at 808-09 (discussing Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478 (1978)).

Id. at pp. 79-80.

Judge Bates continues to decimate Ms. Miers’ claim of absolute immunity:

There is nothing left to the Executive’s primary argument in light of Harlow. This case, of course, does not involve national security or foreign policy, and the Executive does not invoke that mantra. The derivative, “alter ego” immunity that the Executive requests here due to Ms. Miers’s and Mr. Bolten’s close proximity to and association with the President has been explicitly and definitively rejected, and there is no basis for reaching a different conclusion here. Indeed, the Executive asks this Court to recognize precisely the type of blanket derivative absolute immunity that the Supreme Court declined to acknowledge in Harlow.

Id. at pp. 81-82.

Judge Bates also expressly pointed out that there is NO judicial precedent for Ms. Miers’ claims:

Thus, it would hardly be unprecedented for Ms. Miers to appear before Congress to testify and assert executive privilege where appropriate. Still, it is noteworthy that in an environment where there is no judicial support whatsoever for the Executive’s claim of absolute immunity, the historical record also does not reflect the wholesale compulsion by Congress of testimony from senior presidential advisors that the Executive fears. [Emphasis in original.]

Id. at pp. 83-84.

And that Ms. Miers’ claims are based solely on two (2) legal opinions issued by the Executive Branch itself:

Tellingly, the only authority that the Executive can muster in support of its absolute
immunity assertion are two OLC opinions authored by Attorney General Janet Reno and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury, respectively.

* * *

[T]he Court is not at all persuaded by the Reno and Bradbury opinions.

Id. at pp. 85-86.

Since Ms. Miers’ failure to appear pursuant to validly issued subpoenas is not supported by any colorable basis in law, her failure to appear is in violation of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Accordingly, Ms. Miers’ conduct calls into question her fitness to practice law.

Supporting Links:

Conyers: Are Subpoenas Optional or Not?, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 12, 2007

Memorandum to the Members of the Committee on the Judiciary regarding Full Committee Consideration of Report on the Refusal of Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten to Comply with Subpoenas By the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John C. Conyers, Jr., Chairman, July 24, 2007

House Democrats Approve Contempt of Congress Citations Wednesday Against 2 Presidential Aides, Laurie Kellman, AP News, July 25, 2007

House Committee Approves Contempt Citation, Paul Kiel, TPMMuckraker.com, July 25, 2007

Rules Violated:

Failure to Report Unlawful and Unethical Conduct of Texas Attorney Alberto Gonzales

Beginning in January 2001, Ms. Miers served as Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary for President George W. Bush. In 2003, she was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy. In November 2004, President Bush appointed her to the post of White House Counsel, the chief legal adviser for the Office of the President, succeeding Alberto Gonzales who had held that position during President Bush’s first term and who left that position to become Attorney General of the United States in February 2005.

In each of these positions, Ms. Miers worked closely with Mr. Gonzales, who, like Ms. Miers, is also a member of the Texas Bar. In fulfilling her duties to the President, or subsequent to her employment by the President, Ms. Miers acquired the requisite knowledge of conduct engaged in by Mr. Gonzales that raised, or should have raised, a substantial question as to Mr. Gonzales’ honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer. However, Ms. Miers failed to inform the appropriate disciplinary authority as required by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, Ms. Miers became aware of the following violations of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct by Mr. Gonzales:

  • His March 2004 attempt, as then-White House Counsel, to coerce the execution of legal documents by then-Attorney General John Ashcroft while Mr. Ashcroft was in intensive care.
  • His false statements to Congress that there was no dissent in the Department of Justice regarding the intelligence program known as the terrorist surveillance program.
  • His attempt to improperly influence Monica Goodling to provide false statements to Congress.
  • His complicity in the violations of the Presidential Records Act by Karl Rove, J. Scott Jennings, Susan Ralston and other White House officials. In a deposition provided on May 10, 2007, Susan Ralston, Karl Rove’s former executive assistant, testified that she and Mr. Rove searched for e-mails on his political accounts in response to requests from two separate investigations. Ms. Ralston stated that in 2001, Mr. Rove was asked to search his political computer in response to a request relating to an investigation involving Enron. She testified that the White House Counsel’s office would have known about these searches “because all of the documents that we collected were then turned over to the White House Counsel’s office.” In addition, Ms. Ralston testified that Mr. Rove searched his RNC e-mail account in response to several subpoenas from Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. She testified that the White House Counsel’s office also knew about these searches and received copies of the search results.
  • His false statements to Congress regarding abuses of the USA Patriot Act by the FBI. In his testimony to the Senate, Mr. Gonzales testified that the FBI had not abused its use of national security letters. However, Mr. Gonzales had, in fact, received at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • His conflict of interest advising President Bush to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program even though Mr. Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation.
  • His false statements to Congress regarding his intentions to appoint US Attorneys pursuant to the USA Patriot Act.
  • His false statements to Congress regarding the stated reasons for firing nine (9) US Attorneys even though Ms. Miers was intimately involved in the firing of the US Attorneys and knew his statements were false.

Supporting Links:

See Alberto Gonzales , Grievance Project, October 3, 2007.

Rules Violated:

Text and comments of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Ms. Miers

Alberto Gonzales

This morning, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that he will leave the Department of Justice, after two and a half years of service to the department. Al Gonzales is a man of integrity, decency and principle. And I have reluctantly accepted his resignation, with great appreciation for the service that he has provided for our country. * * * After months of unfair treatment that has created a harmful distraction at the Justice Department, Judge Gonzales decided to resign his position, and I accept his decision. It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons.

President George W. Bush, August 27, 2007

Personal Information:

Name: Gonzales, Alberto
Bar: Texas
ID No: No. 8118550
Status: Active

Grievance Information: Texas

Bar Home Page: State Bar of Texas
Main Grievance Page: Texas Client Assistance & Grievance
Ethics Rules: Texas Procedural and Conduct Rules
Complaint Form: Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel Grievance Form (.pdf)
Attorney Search: Texas Member Directory

Allegations:

Knowing Attempt to Coerce Execution of Legal Document by Incompetent Person

On March 4, 2004, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was stricken with pancreatitis for which he underwent gall bladder surgery. Prior to being admitted to the hospital, Ashcroft executed a formal document transferring the powers and responsibilities of the office of Attorney General to his Deputy Attorney General James Comey. This transfer of power was communicated to the White House. Knowing specifically that Ashcroft had both transferred power to Comey and had also not reclaimed his position, Alberto Gonzales, then-White House Counsel, visited the hospital intensive care bedside of Ashcroft on March 10, 2004 in an attempt to pressure Ashcroft to execute a legal document as the Attorney General. Ashcroft, who was barely conscious at the time, refused. Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee, acting-Attorney General James Comey stated that

I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.

Comey further testified that, after witnessing Gonzales’ visit, that

I was angry. I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man who did not have the powers of the attorney general.

An excerpt of Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 15, 2007, further explains the improper conduct of Gonzales:

COMEY: We had — yes. We had concerns as to our ability to certify its legality, which was our obligation for the program to be renewed.

The attorney general was taken that very afternoon [March 4, 2007] to George Washington Hospital, where he went into intensive care and remained there for over a week. And I became the acting attorney general.

And over the next week — particularly the following week, on Tuesday — we communicated to the relevant parties at the White House and elsewhere our decision that as acting attorney general I would not certify the program as to its legality and explained our reasoning in detail, which I will not go into here. Nor am I confirming it’s any particular program. That was Tuesday that we communicated that.

The next day was Wednesday, March the 10th, the night of the hospital incident. And I was headed home at about 8 o’clock that evening, my security detail was driving me. And I remember exactly where I was — on Constitution Avenue — and got a call from Attorney General Ashcroft’s chief of staff telling me that he had gotten a call…

SCHUMER: What’s his name?

COMEY: David Ayers. That he had gotten a call from Mrs. Ashcroft from the hospital. She had banned all visitors and all phone calls. So I hadn’t seen him or talked to him because he was very ill. And Mrs. Ashcroft reported that a call had come through, and that as a result of that call Mr. Card and Mr. Gonzales were on their way to the hospital to see Mr. Ashcroft.

SCHUMER: Do you have any idea who that call was from?

COMEY: I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself, but I don’t know that for sure. It came from the White House. And it came through and the call was taken in the hospital.

So I hung up the phone, immediately called my chief of staff, told him to get as many of my people as possible to the hospital immediately. I hung up, called Director Mueller and — with whom I’d been discussing this particular matter and had been a great help to me over that week — and told him what was happening. He said, “I’ll meet you at the hospital right now.”

Told my security detail that I needed to get to George Washington Hospital immediately. They turned on the emergency equipment and drove very quickly to the hospital. I got out of the car and ran up — literally ran up the stairs with my security detail.

SCHUMER: What was your concern? You were in obviously a huge hurry.

COMEY: I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that.

SCHUMER: Right, OK.

COMEY: I was worried about him, frankly. And so I raced to the hospital room, entered. And Mrs. Ashcroft was standing by the hospital bed, Mr. Ashcroft was lying down in the bed, the room was darkened. And I immediately began speaking to him, trying to orient him as to time and place, and try to see if he could focus on what was happening, and it wasn’t clear to me that he could. He seemed pretty bad off.

SCHUMER: At that point it was you, Mrs. Ashcroft and the attorney general and maybe medical personnel in the room. No other Justice Department or government officials.

COMEY: Just the three of us at that point. I tried to see if I could help him get oriented. As I said, it wasn’t clear that I had succeeded.

I went out in the hallway. Spoke to Director Mueller by phone. He was on his way. I handed the phone to the head of the security detail and Director Mueller instructed the FBI agents present not to allow me to be removed from the room under any circumstances. And I went back in the room.

I was shortly joined by the head of the Office of Legal Counsel assistant attorney general, Jack Goldsmith, and a senior staffer of mine who had worked on this matter, an associate deputy attorney general. So the three of us Justice Department people went in the room. I sat down…

SCHUMER: Just give us the names of the two other people.

COMEY: Jack Goldsmith, who was the assistant attorney general, and Patrick Philbin, who was associate deputy attorney general.

I sat down in an armchair by the head of the attorney general’s bed. The two other Justice Department people stood behind me. And Mrs. Ashcroft stood by the bed holding her husband’s arm. And we waited.

And it was only a matter of minutes that the door opened and in walked Mr. Gonzales, carrying an envelope, and Mr. Card. They came over and stood by the bed. They greeted the attorney general very briefly. And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there — to seek his approval for a matter, and explained what the matter was — which I will not do.

And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me. He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me — drawn from the hour-long meeting we’d had a week earlier — and in very strong terms expressed himself, and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, “But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general.”

SCHUMER: But he expressed his reluctance or he would not sign the statement that they — give the authorization that they had asked, is that right?

COMEY: Yes. And as he laid back down, he said, “But that doesn’t matter, because I’m not the attorney general. There is the attorney general,” and he pointed to me, and I was just to his left. The two men did not acknowledge me. They turned and walked from the room. And within just a few moments after that, Director Mueller arrived. I told him quickly what had happened. He had a brief — a memorable brief exchange with the attorney general and then we went outside in the hallway.

SCHUMER: OK. Now, just a few more points on that meeting. First, am I correct that it was Mr. Gonzales who did just about all of the talking, Mr. Card said very little?

COMEY: Yes, sir.

SCHUMER: OK. And they made it clear that there was in this envelope an authorization that they hoped Mr. Ashcroft — Attorney General Ashcroft would sign.

COMEY: In substance. I don’t know exactly the words, but it was clear that’s what the envelope was.

SCHUMER: And the attorney general was — what was his condition? I mean, he had — as I understand it, he had pancreatitis. He was very, very ill; in critical condition, in fact.

COMEY: He was very ill. I don’t know how the doctors graded his condition. This was — this would have been his sixth day in intensive care. And as I said, I was shocked when I walked in the room and very concerned as I tried to get him to focus.

SCHUMER: Right. OK. Let’s continue. What happened after Mr. Gonzales and Card left? Did you have any contact with them in the next little while?

COMEY: While I was talking to Director Mueller, an agent came up to us and said that I had an urgent call in the command center, which was right next door. They had Attorney General Ashcroft in a hallway by himself and there was an empty room next door that was the command center. And he said it was Mr. Card wanting to speak to me.

I took the call. And Mr. Card was very upset and demanded that I come to the White House immediately. I responded that, after the conduct I had just witnessed, I would not meet with him without a witness present.

He replied, “What conduct? We were just there to wish him well.”

And I said again, “After what I just witnessed, I will not meet with you without a witness. And I intend that witness to be the solicitor general of the United States.”

SCHUMER: Let me ask you this: So in sum, it was your belief that Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card were trying to take advantage of an ill and maybe disoriented man to try and get him to do something that many, at least in the Justice Department, thought was against the law? Was that a correct summation?

COMEY: I was concerned that this was an effort to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded — the department as a whole — was unable to be certified as to its legality. And that was my concern.

(Emphasis added.)

Robert S. Mueller, Director of the FBI, arrived at Ashcroft’s hospital room moments after Gonzalez left. In notes memorializing his observations of Ashcroft, Mueller described Ashcroft as “feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.”

Mr. Ashcroft himself confirms Mr. Comey’s observation that Mr. Ashcroft was ‘a very sick man’ and Mr. Mueller’s observation that Mr. Ashcroft was ‘feeble, barely articulate, clearly stressed.’ In Never Again – Securing America and Restoring Justice, former Attorney General John Ashcroft described his stay in the hospital and the subsequent period of recuperation in this manner (emphasis supplied):

They tubed me up with intravenous lines so they could shut down my pancreas and digestive system. … I felt weak and emaciated, but my doctors assured me that when they got me patched up, [i.e., removed his gall bladder,] over time, I’d be close to good as new.

The doctors kept me in intensive care, lying on my back for almost ten full days, pumping me full of antibiotics and morphine. They then sent me home, where I needed another three (3) weeks to recuperate. Following my bout with acute pancreatitus and the necessary surgery, I returned to work in the early spring of 2004. I had relinquished my official responsibilities as attorney general during my stay in the hospital and through the recuperation. I was in no position to exercise judgment or to make decisions on behalf of the United States Government.

John Ashcroft, Never Again – Securing America and Restoring Justice, p.235.

Clearly, Mr. Comey’s statement that he was concerned that Mr. Gonzales was trying ‘to do an end-run around the acting attorney general and to get a very sick man to approve something that the Department of Justice had already concluded — the department as a whole — was unable to be certified as to its legality’ is supported by the facts. Mr. Gonzales’ explanation, however, does not.

In explaining his conduct, Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 24, 2007 that he went to the Ashcroft’s hospital at the behest of the “Gang of Eight” bipartisan congressional leaders who, according to Gonzales, had demanded that the program continue. Former Senator Tom Daschle, a member of the Gang of Eight, however, states that:

I have no recollection of such a meeting and believe that it didn’t occur. I am quite certain that at no time did we encourage the AG or anyone else to take such actions. This appears to be another attempt to rewrite history just as they have attempted to do with the war resolution.

Additionally, Gonzales’ testimony was further contradicted by other members of the Gang of Eight:

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), who were briefed on the program at the time, said there was no consensus that it should proceed. Three others who were at the meeting also said the legal underpinnings of the program were never discussed.

“He once again is making something up to protect himself,” Rockefeller said of the embattled attorney general.

Ashcroft undergoes successful gall bladder removal, doctor says, USA Today, March 9, 2004

White House pressed Ashcroft on wiretaps , USA Today, May 15, 2007

Gonzales slammed for visiting hospitalized Ashcroft on wiretapping, USA Today, May 15, 2007

Transcript of testimony of Deputy Attorney General James Comey to Senate Judiciary Committee , Salon.com, May 15, 2007

In sickbed showdown, principle trumps power , USA Today, May 16, 2007

Senators renew call for Gonzales’ resignation, USA Today, May 16, 2007

Leahy asks Gonzales to clarify testimony, USA Today, July 18, 2007

Attorney General faces new questions, USA Today, July 19, 2007

Daschle: Gonzales Trying to “Rewrite History” by Blaming Congress for Ashcroft Spying Crisis, TPMMuckraker, July 24, 2007

Pelosi: I Objected to Spying When Comey Did, TPMMuckraker, July 24, 2007

Gonzales, Senators Spar on Credibility, Dan Eggen and Paul Kane. July 25, 2007

FBI chief’s notes detail Ashcroft visit, USA Today, August 16, 2007

Special Gonzales Top 10 (video), Talking Points Memo, August 28, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

False Statement to Congress

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 6, 2007, Gonzales testified about a White House Situation Room briefing to inform congressional leaders about the pending expiration of and DoJ objections to an unidentified program. Then-Deputy Attorney General Jim Comey led the objections and questioned the program’s legality. Specifically, Gonzales stated that:

The dissent related to other intelligence activities. The dissent was not about the terrorist surveillance program. … It was not [about a program called the Terror Surveillance Program]. It was about other intelligence activities.

According to the Washington Post,

Gonzales, testifying for the first time in February 2006 about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which involved eavesdropping on phone calls between the United States and places overseas, told two congressional committees that the program had not provoked serious disagreement involving Comey or others. “None of the reservations dealt with the program that we are talking about today,” Gonzales said then. No Dissent on Spying, Says Justice Dept. , Washington Post, R. Jeffrey Smith, May 17, 2007

The New York Times adds that

Mr. Gonzales insisted before the Senate this week that the 2004 dispute did not involve the Terrorist Surveillance Program “confirmed” by President Bush, who has acknowledged eavesdropping without warrants but has never acknowledged the data mining. Mining of Data Prompted Fight Over U.S. Spying , New York Times, Scott Shange and David Johnston, July 29, 2007

However, a May 17, 2006 memo from then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte addressed to then-House Speaker Dennis Hastert confirms that the briefing on March 10, 2004, was indeed about the TSP and detailed “the classification of the dates, locations, and names of members of Congress who attended briefings on the Terrorist Surveillance Program[.]” As noted by reporter Spencer Ackerman,

As the world knows, Gonzales testified on Tuesday that James Comey, the former deputy attorney general, may have had legal objections to … to… well, to some “intelligence activities” by the Bush administration, but not to the surveillance program announced by President Bush in December 2005, known as the Terrorist Surveillance Program. Stunned lawmakers immediately began talking about perjury charges: the previously-unknown “program” came as very convenient for Gonzales, who had told the Senate on February 6, 2006 that no one within the Justice Department had dissented from the program the “president described.”

* * *

If Gonzales concedes that the March 10, 2004 meeting was about the TSP, he’ll be conceding that Comey’s objections were indeed about the TSP — and that means that his February 6, 2006 testimony misled the Senate. In other words, unless Gonzales can prove that the March 10, 2004 meeting wasn’t about the TSP, he’s going to be hounded by perjury charges for the rest of his tenure.

Additionally, Jack Goldsmith testified on October 1, 2007, that

And counter to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ testimony to Congress, Goldsmith said there were “enormous disagreements about many aspects of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Goldsmith repeatedly used the plural when describing those disagreements, making it clear that it was not a single aspect of the program that was at issue. Goldsmith: Legal Basis for Surveillance Program was “Biggest Mess” , TPMMuckraker, October 1, 2007

Senators renew call for Gonzales’ resignation, USA Today, May 16, 2007

Another Surveillance Program or a Lie?, TPMMuckraker, May 22, 2007

Ashcroft: Officials fought over snooping, USA Today, June 21, 2007

Leahy to Gonzales: Start Trying to Remember Now, TPMMuckraker, July 18, 2007

Today’s Must Read, TPMMuckraker, July 18, 2007

Documents contradict Gonzales’ testimony, USA Today, July 25, 2007

Letter from Sens. Schumer, Feinstein, Feingold and Whitehouse to Solicitor General Paul Clement , July 26, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

Attempt to Improperly Influence a Witness and False Statements to Congress

On May 23, 2007, former Justice Department aide Monica Goodling testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that a conversation with Gonzales about his recollections of the dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys made her “uncomfortable.” According to Goodling in her testimony to Congress, Gonzales recounted his recollection of events surrounding the firing of up to nine (9) United States Attorneys before asking for her reaction. Goodling testified that Gonzales began telling Goodling what he remembered about the firing process and then asked her if she had “any reaction” to his memory. “I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that,” she said, adding that it made her “uncomfortable.” She said Gonzales’ comments discomfited her because both Congress and the Justice Department had already launched investigations of the dismissals. Additionally, Goodling’s testimony contradicted Gonzales’ testimony to Congress that he could not remember numerous details about the prosecutors’ dismissals because he had purposely avoided discussing the issue with other potential “fact witnesses.” This matter is also under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General.

Goodling Testifies about Gonzales Meeting , TPMMuckraker, May 23, 2007

Letter to Sens. Leahy and Specter from US DoJ, OIG, TPMMuckraker, May 23, 2007

Gonzales Meeting With Aide Scrutinized , The Washington Post, June 15, 2007

Leahy asks Gonzales to clarify testimony, USA Today, July 18, 2007

Leahy to Gonzales: Start Trying to Remember Now, TPMMuckraker, July 18, 2007

Gonzales: Witness Tampering? No, It Was Witness Consolation, TPMMuckraker, July 24, 2007

Letter from Sens. Schumer, Feinstein, Feingold and Whitehouse to Solicitor General Paul Clement , July 26, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 1.06 Conflict of Interest: General Rule
  2. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  3. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  4. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  5. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

Complicity in Violations of the Presidential Records Act

During investigation of the firing of nine (9) United States Attorneys, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee learned that Republican National Committee e-mail accounts, that were supposed to be used only to conduct political work, were in fact used to evade the federal law on retaining presidential records. The existence of such communications were discovered in the investigation of the firing of nine (9) U.S. attorneys last year. In a letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Rep. Henry Waxman noted e-mails from senior aides who were using the RNC and other e-mail accounts that were controlled by the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign.

Since March, the Committee has been examining why White House officials used e-mail
accounts operated and controlled by the Republican National Committee for official government
business, apparently in violation of the Presidential Records Act. I am writing to request your
assistance in obtaining documents and interviews relevant to the Committee’s investigation.
On June 18,2007 ,I released an interim report prepared by the majority staff on the status
of the Committee’s investigation. This report found that at least 88 White House officials had
RNC e-mail accounts, more than the White House had previously acknowledged. It also found
that although the RNC has preserved 674,367 e-mails to or from White House officials on RNC
accounts, there was extensive destruction by the RNC of White House e-mails. Of the 88 White
House officials who received RNC e-mail accounts, the RNC preserved no e-mails for 51
officials. In general, the RNC appears to have destroyed most of the e-mails sent or received by
White House officials prior to 2006.

The interim report described evidence that the Office of White House Counsel under
Alberto Gonzales may have known that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts
for official business, but took no action to preserve these presidential records. In a deposition
before the Committee on May 10, 2007, Susan Ralston, Karl Rove’s former executive assistant,
testified that she and Mr. Rove searched for e-mails on his political accounts in response to
requests from two separate investigations. Ms. Ralston stated that in 2001, Mr. Rove was asked
to search his political computer in response to a request relating to an investigation involving
Enron. She testified that the White House Counsel’s office would have known about these searches “because all of the documents that we collected were then turned over to the White
House Counsel’s office.”2 According to Ms. Ralston, this investigation was related to the Vice
President’s energy task force and contacts with Enron.’

In addition, Ms. Ralston testified that Mr. Rove searched his RNC e-mail account in
response to several subpoenas from Patrick Fitzgerald during the investigation into the leak of
the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson. She testified that the White House Counsel’s
office also knew about these searches and received copies of the search results.

It would be a matter of serious concern if Mr. Gonzales or other attorneys in the Office of
White House Counsel were aware that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts to
conduct official White House business, but ignored these apparent violations of the Presidential
Records Act.

Letter from Rep. Henry Waxman to Fred Fielding, July 25, 2007

Letter from Sens. Schumer, Feinstein, Feingold and Whitehouse to Solicitor General Paul Clement , July 26, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 1.06 Conflict of Interest: General Rule
  2. Rule 8.03 Reporting Professional Misconduct (regarding any improper use of e-mails by Harriet Miers)
  3. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

False Statements to Congress regarding abuses of USA Patriot Act by FBI

In testimony to the Senate seeking to renew the USA Patriot Act two years ago, Gonzales testified that the FBI had not abused its use of national security letters. Specifically, he stated on April 27, 2005 that “There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse.” However , six (6) days earlier,

the FBI sent Gonzales a copy of a report that said its agents had obtained personal information that they were not entitled to have. It was one of at least half a dozen reports of legal or procedural violations that Gonzales received in the three months before he made his statement to the Senate intelligence committee, according to internal FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The acts recounted in the FBI reports included unauthorized surveillance, an illegal property search and a case in which an Internet firm improperly turned over a compact disc with data that the FBI was not entitled to collect, the documents show. Gonzales was copied on each report that said administrative rules or laws protecting civil liberties and privacy had been violated.

The reports also alerted Gonzales in 2005 to problems with the FBI’s use of an anti-terrorism tool known as a national security letter (NSL), well before the Justice Department’s inspector general brought widespread abuse of the letters in 2004 and 2005 to light in a stinging report this past March.

Gonzales Was Told of FBI Violations , John Solomon, Washington Post, July 10, 2007

When Did AG Gonzales Know About FBI Abuses? , TPMMuckraker, July 10, 2007

Today’s Must Read , TPMMuckraker, July 10, 2007

Gonzales: NSL Abuses Weren’t Really Abuses , TPMMuckraker, July 24, 2007

Letter from Sens. Schumer, Feinstein, Feingold and Whitehouse to Solicitor General Paul Clement , July 26, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

Conflict of Interest and/or Failure to Procure Written Waiver of Conflict

Murray Waas of the National Journal, writes that

Shortly before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales advised President Bush last year on whether to shut down a Justice Department inquiry regarding the administration’s warrantless domestic eavesdropping program, Gonzales learned that his own conduct would likely be a focus of the investigation, according to government records and interviews.

Bush personally intervened to sideline the Justice Department probe in April 2006 by taking the unusual step of denying investigators the security clearances necessary for their work.

It is unclear whether the president knew at the time of his decision that the Justice inquiry — to be conducted by the department’s internal ethics watchdog, the Office of Professional Responsibility — would almost certainly examine the conduct of his attorney general.

Sources familiar with the halted inquiry said that if the probe had been allowed to continue, it would have examined Gonzales’ role in authorizing the eavesdropping program while he was White House counsel, as well as his subsequent oversight of the program as attorney general.

Both the White House and Gonzales declined comment on two issues — whether Gonzales informed Bush that his own conduct was about to be scrutinized, and whether he urged the president to close down the investigation, which had been requested by Democratic members of Congress.

* * *

Stephen Gillers, a law professor at the New York University School of Law and an expert on legal ethics issues, questioned Gonzales’s continued role in advising Bush in any capacity about the probe after he learned that his own conduct might be scrutinized: “If the attorney general was on notice that he was a person of interest to the OPR inquiry, he should have stepped aside and not been involved in any decisions about the scope or the continuation of the investigation.”

Bush Blocked Justice Department Investigation, Murray Waas, National Journal, July 18, 2006

Internal Affairs, Murray Waas, National Journal, March 15, 2007

Gonzales: Don’t Blame Me, Blame Bush, TPMMuckraker, March 23, 2007

Memorandum to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Chairman John Conyers, pp. 14 -5, July 24, 2007

The Case Against Gonzales , The Anonymous Liberal, July 27, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 1.06 Conflict of Interest: General Rule
  2. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinion:

OPINION 325, December 1966
[Citing] Opinion 173 (March, 1968):
“Public officials should act with the utmost caution at all times to avoid any suspicion on the part of the public that there is some influence operating on the Court in the handling of matters before it and they should not conduct themselves in such a way as to impair the confidence which the community has in the administration of justice.”
The same policy carries forward to the conduct of an attorney after his retirement from public office and he should not accept employment in any matter which might be calculated to arouse suspicion of impropriety in the public mind.

OPINION 367, March 1974
Ethical Consideration 9-3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides “after a lawyer leaves judicial office or other public employment, he should not accept employment in connection with any matter in which he had substantial responsibility prior to his leaving, since to accept employment would give the appearance of impropriety even if none exists.

OPINION 441, March 1987
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 441, V. 50 Tex. B.J. 618 (1987)
A lawyer may not represent an interest adverse to a client’s or a former client’s interest if the two matters are substantially related. Such adverse representation is prohibited in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

OPINION 494, February 1994
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 494, V. 57 Tex. B.J. 786 (1994)
Is an attorney disqualified from representing a client in a situation where the husband had a brief consultation with the attorney in 1986, and the wife consulted the attorney in a subsequent divorce action in 1992?
* * *
Were the factual matters involved in the representation so related that there is a genuine threat that confidences gained in the former representation will be divulged to the attorney’s present client?
ANSWER
Yes. The wife seeks to have the attorney represent her in a divorce from her husband, after the husband consulted with the attorney about a possible divorce from his wife. Obviously this factor is met. In a similar opinion, (Opinion 294, TBJ, September 1964) the committee found that an attorney who represented the wife in a prior divorce action, which was dismissed upon reconciliation, could not ethically represent her husband in a subsequent divorce suit filed against her by her husband. The committee reasoned that an attorney’s duty to preserve a client’s confidence outlasts his or her employment, and employment which involves the disclosure or use of these confidences to the disadvantage of the client.
CONCLUSION
The attorney’s representation of the wife would be in violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

OPINION 527, April 1999
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics. Op. 527, V. 62 Tex. B.J. 4 (1999)
SUMMARY OF APPLICABLE RULE
Prior applicable ethics opinions, decisions of the Texas Supreme Court, and the provisions of Rule 1.09 may be summarized as follows:
1. Rule 1.09 prohibits an attorney who has personally represented a former client from representing a person in a matter adverse to the former client if such new representation would violate any of the provisions of Rule 1.09(a).
2. If an attorney is prohibited under Rule 1.09(a) from accepting a representation adverse to a former client, each attorney currently associated with such disqualified attorney is vicariously prohibited from accepting such representation under Rule 1.09(b).
3. If an attorney who personally represented a former client leaves a law firm, the lawyers who remain at the firm are thereafter prohibited from knowingly representing a person adverse to that former client only if a lawyer presently associated with the firm is personally disqualified from accepting the representation under Rule 1.09(a) or the firm’s proposed representation involves the validity of the departed lawyer’s legal services or work product for such former client while he was associated with the firm, or the proposed representation will with reasonable probability involve a violation of Rule 1.05 with respect to the confidential information of such former client.
4. If, as in this ethics opinion, a lawyer terminates his association with a law firm and such firm retains as a client a person whom the departing lawyer personally represented while he was associated with the firm, any subsequent representation by the departed lawyer adverse to such former client is governed by Rule 1.09(a). And, all lawyers currently associated with the departed lawyer are treated the same by reason of Rule 1.09(b). The departed lawyer and members of his new firm can represent a person adverse to such former client only if the representation does not violate Rule 1.09(a)(1),(2), or (3).

False Statements to Congress regarding Intentions to appoint US Attorneys pursuant to USA Patriot Act

On January 18, 2007, Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and stated:

“I am fully committed, as the administration’s fully committed, to ensure that, with respect to every United States attorney position in this country, we will have a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed United States attorney.”

CAUGHT ON TAPE: Gonzales Lies Under Oath, Think Progress, March 16, 2007

Again on April 19, 2007, Gonzales testified that had rejected a White House plan to appoint United States Attorneys pursuant to recent amendments to the USA Patriot Act which would permit the Attorney General to appoint United States Attorneys without having the appointments confirmed by the United States Senate and further stated that he never considered the plan. However, Gonzales’ former chief of staff Kyle Sampson testified in March to the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales did not reject the idea of circumventing the Senate until after Gonzales had spoken with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) in mid-December about Tim Griffin’s appointment as a United States Attorney in Arkansas. Sampson testified that he did discuss the idea with Gonzales and that Gonzales did not reject the outright.

Schumer Tears into Gonzales, TPMMuckraker, April 19, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

Conflict of Interest

In his letter to Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Paul Hodes, Attorney Paul Twomey states:

We are writing to you in order to bring to your attention to what appears to be disturbing evidence of a pattern of political interference in the Department of Justice’s investigation of the phone jamming in 2002 United States Senate election in the State of New Hampshire.

On November 5, 2002, operatives working on behalf of the New Hampshire Republican Party entered into a criminal conspiracy which had as its goal the total disruption of the political communications of the New Hampshire Democratic Party in order to gain an unfair advantage in what was a very closely contested United States Senate election. To date, four individuals have been indicted and convicted including Charles McGee, the 2002 Executive Director of the Republican Party and James Tobin, a long time Republican operative who was at that time Regional Political Director for both the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (NRSC)

Additionally, a civil suit was brought on behalf of the New Hampshire Democratic Party against the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Throughout both the criminal prosecution and the civil suit, there were repeated actions of commission and omission on the part of the Department of Justice that give rise to serious questions as to whether or not there was political interference which operated to distort the judicial process.

* * *

After the filing of the criminal charges when an attorney acting for the Democratic Party, Finis Williams, was informed by the prosecutor that the delays were
due to the extreme difficulty in obtaining authorization from higher levels at DOJ for any and all actions in the case. We have been further informed by Attorney John Durkin (counsel for Republican criminal defendants, Allen Raymond) that he was told by a DOJ prosecutor that all decisions in this case had to be made subject to the approval of the Attorney General himself who had to sign off on all actions in this case. As will be discussed below, the two individuals who served as Attorney General during this case both have actual conflicts of interest that would appear to rule out ethical involvement in the investigation and prosecution of the phone jamming.

* * *

As stated above, prosecutors in this case have indicated that both that the slow pace of this case has been occasioned by delays caused by individuals at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and that all decisions had to be reviewed by the Attorney General himself. Given the extreme and critical importance of an assault on free elections by high officials in a major political party, is it certainly appropriate for attention to be given to the case by at the highest levels at the Department of Justice. However, the attention so given should be of assistance in the expeditious and efficacious prosecution of those involved. In this case, however, the attention of the higher ups in the Justice Department served only to delay, if not deny, justice.

Both Attorney General’s Ashcroft and Gonzalez had personal conflicts of interest which should have resulted in them recusing themselves from all action in the case. Attorney General Ashcroft, at the time of these events, had recently been a United States Senator and a member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, one of the organizations for which James Tobin was working when he undertook his criminal activities. The conflict for Attorney General Gonzalez is even more apparent. At the time of the phone jamming, Attorney General Gonzales was legal counsel to the White House. During the course of the criminal conspiracy, defendant, James Tobin, made literally hundreds of calls to the political office of the White House. In the civil case, a deposition was taken of Alicia Davis, Deputy to Ken Mehlman, who was then the Political Director of the White House regarding her conversations with both Tobin and Jayne Millerick, a Republican operative on Election Day 2002. The New Hampshire Democratic Party sought to have documents produced from the White House concerning these contacts. (This request was denied by the White House on the grounds of executive privilege, although the documents sought only related to the non-official actions of the White House Political Office would not appear to be subject to executive privilege. In fact, the phone records sought were for phones that could not be paid by public funds according to the terms of the Hatch Act).

It is perfectly clear that there were significant questions regarding the involvement of the political office of the White House in this case. When it came to light that the Republican National Committee had paid several million dollars for the legal fees of James Tobin, former, RNC Chair Gillespie told a reporter that the decision to pay these legal fees made in consultation with the White House.
As Attorney General Gonzalez was then counsel for the White House, it is totally inappropriate for him to have taken any part in investigation and prosecution of the phone jamming case where part of the inquiry would involve the possible involvement of individuals working for the White House.

Letter to Sen. Leahy and Cong. Hodes, Paul Twomey, Esq., March 21, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 1.06 Conflict of Interest: General Rule
  2. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 325, December 1966
[Citing] Opinion 173 (March, 1968):
“Public officials should act with the utmost caution at all times to avoid any suspicion on the part of the public that there is some influence operating on the Court in the handling of matters before it and they should not conduct themselves in such a way as to impair the confidence which the community has in the administration of justice.”
The same policy carries forward to the conduct of an attorney after his retirement from public office and he should not accept employment in any matter which might be calculated to arouse suspicion of impropriety in the public mind.

OPINION 367, March 1974
Ethical Consideration 9-3 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides “after a lawyer leaves judicial office or other public employment, he should not accept employment in connection with any matter in which he had substantial responsibility prior to his leaving, since to accept employment would give the appearance of impropriety even if none exists.

OPINION 441, March 1987
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 441, V. 50 Tex. B.J. 618 (1987)
A lawyer may not represent an interest adverse to a client’s or a former client’s interest if the two matters are substantially related. Such adverse representation is prohibited in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

OPINION 494, February 1994
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 494, V. 57 Tex. B.J. 786 (1994)
Is an attorney disqualified from representing a client in a situation where the husband had a brief consultation with the attorney in 1986, and the wife consulted the attorney in a subsequent divorce action in 1992?
* * *
Were the factual matters involved in the representation so related that there is a genuine threat that confidences gained in the former representation will be divulged to the attorney’s present client?
ANSWER
Yes. The wife seeks to have the attorney represent her in a divorce from her husband, after the husband consulted with the attorney about a possible divorce from his wife. Obviously this factor is met. In a similar opinion, (Opinion 294, TBJ, September 1964) the committee found that an attorney who represented the wife in a prior divorce action, which was dismissed upon reconciliation, could not ethically represent her husband in a subsequent divorce suit filed against her by her husband. The committee reasoned that an attorney’s duty to preserve a client’s confidence outlasts his or her employment, and employment which involves the disclosure or use of these confidences to the disadvantage of the client.
CONCLUSION
The attorney’s representation of the wife would be in violation of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

OPINION 527, April 1999
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics. Op. 527, V. 62 Tex. B.J. 4 (1999)
SUMMARY OF APPLICABLE RULE
Prior applicable ethics opinions, decisions of the Texas Supreme Court, and the provisions of Rule 1.09 may be summarized as follows:
1. Rule 1.09 prohibits an attorney who has personally represented a former client from representing a person in a matter adverse to the former client if such new representation would violate any of the provisions of Rule 1.09(a).
2. If an attorney is prohibited under Rule 1.09(a) from accepting a representation adverse to a former client, each attorney currently associated with such disqualified attorney is vicariously prohibited from accepting such representation under Rule 1.09(b).
3. If an attorney who personally represented a former client leaves a law firm, the lawyers who remain at the firm are thereafter prohibited from knowingly representing a person adverse to that former client only if a lawyer presently associated with the firm is personally disqualified from accepting the representation under Rule 1.09(a) or the firm’s proposed representation involves the validity of the departed lawyer’s legal services or work product for such former client while he was associated with the firm, or the proposed representation will with reasonable probability involve a violation of Rule 1.05 with respect to the confidential information of such former client.
4. If, as in this ethics opinion, a lawyer terminates his association with a law firm and such firm retains as a client a person whom the departing lawyer personally represented while he was associated with the firm, any subsequent representation by the departed lawyer adverse to such former client is governed by Rule 1.09(a). And, all lawyers currently associated with the departed lawyer are treated the same by reason of Rule 1.09(b). The departed lawyer and members of his new firm can represent a person adverse to such former client only if the representation does not violate Rule 1.09(a)(1),(2), or (3).

False Statements to Congress regarding reasons for firing nine (9) US Attorneys

Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would ‘never, ever make a change in a United States attorney position for political reasons…. I just would not do it.” This is claim is directly contrary to the known facts that United States Attorney Bud Collins and other United States Attorneys were asked to resign so that Tim Griffin, as a replacement for Mr. Collins, and others to “build there resumes [and] get in (sic) experience Attorney as a United States attorney.”

Memorandum to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Chairman John Conyers, pp. 14 -5, July 24, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

False Statements to Congress regarding Conversations with Senator Pete Domenici

Gonzales testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that in a conversation that occurred he spoke to Senator Pete Domenici who, according to Sen. Domenici, criticized the performance of United States Attorney David Iglesias. William Moschella, an attorney with DoJ, testified that he was present during each of these phone conferences, that it was his impression that each conversation regarded only the allocation of additional funding and that Gonzales had never relayed to him that the calls were critical of Iglesias. An e-mail regarding a phone conference further states that “Senator Domenici would like to talk to the AG regarding his concerns about staffing shortages” which supports Mr. Moschella’s contention that that conversation(s) were about funding issues only.

Memorandum to the Senate Judiciary Committee from Chairman John Conyers, pp. 14 -5, July 24, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 3.04 Fairness in Adjudicatory Proceedings
  2. Rule 3.05 Maintaining Impartiality of Tribunal
  3. Rule 3.10 Advocate in Nonadjudicative Proceedings
  4. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 473, June 1991
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 473, V. 56 Tex. B.J. 705 (1993)
Section 3.03(a)(2) of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct requires a lawyer to disclose a fact to a tribunal when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act….

Failure to report Unethical Conduct

Then-White House Counsel Harriet Miers was properly served with a compulsory subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee. Claiming executive privilege, Ms. Miers failed to appear before the relevant tribunal. Gonzales knew about the compulsory subpoena and provided legal advise to Ms. Miers through the Department of Justice that application of the privilege obviated her need to even appear before the tribunal.

And as noted above, in his letter to White House Counsel Fred Fielding, Rep. Henry Waxman noted e-mails from senior aides who were using the RNC and other e-mail accounts that were controlled by the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign:

It would be a matter of serious concern if Mr. Gonzales or other attorneys in the Office of
White House Counsel were aware that White House officials were using RNC e-mail accounts to
conduct official White House business, but ignored these apparent violations of the Presidential
Records Act.

Letter from Rep. Henry Waxman to Fred Fielding, July 25, 2007

Rules Violated:

  1. Rule 1.06 Conflict of Interest: General Rule
  2. Rule 8.03 Reporting Professional Misconduct
  3. Rule 8.04 Misconduct

Texas Professional Ethics Opinions:

OPINION 520, May 1997
Tex. Comm. on Professional Ethics, Op. 520, V. 60 Tex. B.J. 490 (1997)
QUESTION
Does Rule 8.03 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct require a lawyer to report suspected misconduct by another lawyer, when the first lacks solid proof that the second lawyer engaged in the suspected conduct?
DISCUSSION
Rule 8.03 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (Rules) provides in pertinent part:
(a) Except as permitted in paragraphs (c) or (d), [FN1] a lawyer having knowledge that raises a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects, shall inform the appropriate disciplinary authority.
Comment three explains that Rule 8.03 “. . . describes only those disciplinary violations that must be revealed by the disclosing lawyer in order for that lawyer to avoid violating [the] rules.” (Emphasis added.) Comment four further elaborates by stating that Rule 8.03 “limits [a lawyer’s] reporting obligations to those offenses that a self-regulating profession must vigorously endeavor to prevent.” Hence a lawyer is required to report violations of the applicable rules of professional conduct that raise a substantial question as to that lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.
Comment three, however, also provides that Rule 8.03 “is not intended to . . . limit those actual or suspected violations that a lawyer may report to an appropriate disciplinary authority.” (Emphasis added.) Rather, lawyers are instructed to use their best judgment in complying with the reporting requirements of the rule. See comment four.
With regard to a report of alleged misconduct, comment two recognizes that “. . . the existence of a violation [frequently] cannot be established with certainty until a disciplinary investigation . . . has been undertaken. Similarly, an apparently isolated violation may indicate a pattern of misconduct that only such an investigation or inquiry can uncover. Consequently, a lawyer should not fail to report an apparent disciplinary violation merely because he or she cannot determine its existence or scope with absolute certainty.”
The text of Rule 8.03(a), however, requires that a lawyer have knowledge (rather than suspicion) that another lawyer has committed a violation of the applicable rules before informing the appropriate disciplinary authority. A report of misconduct must therefore be based upon objective facts that are likely to have evidentiary support.
CONCLUSION
Rule 8.03(a) of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct is limited to those disciplinary violation that must be revealed by the disclosing lawyer in order for that lawyer to avoid violating the rules. As recognized in the commentary, however, Rule 8.03(a) is not intended to limit the actual or suspected violations that a lawyer may report to an appropriate disciplinary authority. Before reporting an alleged violation, however, Rule 8.03(a) requires that a lawyer have knowledge that another lawyer has in fact committed a violation of the rules. A report of misconduct must therefore be based upon such objective facts that are likely to have evidentiary support. It is beyond the scope of this opinion to comment on specific facts that would constitute sufficient basis for a report of misconduct.

FN1–Paragraph (c) pertains to a lawyer who knows or suspects that another lawyer or judge is impaired by chemical dependency on alcohol or drugs, or by mental illness. Paragraph (d) pertains to the disclosure/non-disclosure of confidential information.

Text and comments of the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct violated by Mr. Gonzales