Monday, June 19, 2017
A District of Columbia Hearing Committee has recommended a suspension with reinstatement on a showing of fitness for Larry Klayman in a ethics matter brought as a result of a complaint filed by Judicial Watch
Respondent Larry E. Klayman is charged with violating the Rules of Professional Conduct by representing three individuals in litigation against his former client Judicial Watch, Inc., a nonprofit organization. The three cases were brought by: a former employee of Judicial Watch (Sandra Cobas); a donor to the organization (Louise Benson); and a former client (Peter Paul). Disciplinary Counsel charges that the three matters were the same or substantially related to matters that Respondent handled as Judicial Watch’s general counsel and that his conduct violated Rule 1.9 (or its Florida equivalent) and in one of the matters seriously interfered with the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4(d). Disciplinary Counsel recommends that Respondent be suspended for 90 days, with 60 days stayed, pending his completion of a continuing legal education course on conflicts of interest.
The committee (chaired by Theodore (Jack) Metzler) rejected a host of contentions in its 43-page opinion and considered aggravating factors
Despite having accepted Florida’s reprimand [in an earlier matter], Respondent now denies responsibility for his misconduct there. Resp. Br. 36-37. He denies owing his client any refund in the first place and makes excuses for his repeated failure to abide by his promises to pay. Id. Remarkably, Respondent suggests that he agreed to the reprimand “to simply put the matter behind [him],” and claims that his conduct did not involve “any . . . ethical violation.” Resp. Br. 37 n.4. That simply is not true. Respondent appears to believe that denying responsibility for misconduct that he previously admitted somehow mitigates his present misconduct. We think the opposite.
We also find that Respondent’s conduct in this proceeding was dishonest and lacked candor in further aggravation of his misconduct. The most egregious examples of this are described above: Respondent testified falsely that he acted under the advice of counsel (Mr. Dugan) when he entered his appearance for Benson. He did not. Respondent’s post hearing brief repeatedly mischaracterizes Mr. Dugan’s testimony, particularly with regard to whether Dugan prepared the opposition to the motion to disqualify Respondent in the Benson case, agreed with the arguments it contains, and advised Respondent regarding his representation of Paul. We also find Respondent’s characterizations of the evidence lack the candor required of an attorney in a disciplinary proceeding. In one particularly inexplicable example, Respondent says the letter soliciting Benson’s donation, which he signed as General Counsel, had “nothing to do with his role as General Counsel of Judicial Watch.” Resp. Br. 9 (Respondent’s italics)
Respondent’s misconduct was serious and escalating. He does not recognize the seriousness of the misconduct or even agree that it is misconduct at all. His conduct since the three representations includes both the misconduct in Florida and his misrepresentations and lack of candor to this tribunal. In the view of this hearing committee, Respondent’s conduct raises serious concerns about whether he will act ethically after his period of suspension has run, and supports imposing a condition that he demonstrate his fitness before resuming the practice of law. See In re Cater, 887 A.2d 1, 24 (D.C. 2005)...
We find by clear and convincing evidence that Respondent violated Florida Rule 4-1.9(a) in Count I, and D.C. Rule 1.9 in Counts II and III of the Amended Specification of Charges. We likewise find that Respondent violated Rule 8.4(d) in Count III. In light of Respondent’s misconduct and the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, we recommend that Respondent be suspended from the practice of law for 90 days with readmission upon showing his fitness to practice law.
The opinion may be accessed at this link. (Mike Frisch)