This afternoon I asked a Maryland judge to order the state’s bar counsel to treat me like any other person who files a grievance against a crooked lawyer, namely by sharing the letters that it receives from Hillary Clinton’s lawyers in response to my grievances. In the process, I discovered that Maryland officials recently changed the rules to squelch people like me and protect powerful attorneys like Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers.
As was widely reported last month, Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul Harris ordered the Attorney Grievance Commission of Maryland and its Office of Bar Counsel to investigate David Kendall, Cheryl Mills, and Heather Samuelson for their roles in destroying emails from Hillary Clinton’s secret server. Bar prosecutors had thumbed their noses at the law that required them to investigate.
Now it appears that the bar prosecutors are thumbing their noses at Judge Harris’s order. The motion that I filed today notes that a Maryland attorney normally must share his / her written responses with the person who filed a grievance against that attorney, but this time it appears that bar prosecutors want to keep everything under wraps. In fact, for all we know the bar prosecutors may not be investigating at all. And given their efforts to protect Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers thus far, I have long suspected that they might just do nothing for a few months, claim they found no evidence, and then close the case.
If Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers are ordered to answer the grievances in writing, they face some difficult choices. On the one hand, they could try to defend themselves, in which case their answers could be used against them in a criminal proceeding. On the other hand, they could assert their Fifth Amendment right to not answer, but that could still be used as grounds for disbarment since since bar proceedings are civil matters (ergo there is no Fifth-Amendment protection from self-incrimination). Mr. Kendall, Ms. Mills, and Ms. Samuelson should be forced to make a choice, and I fully intend to force them.
Meanwhile, the ruling class in Maryland is trying to make sure that they can keep sweeping things under the rug in the future. On June 20, 2017, the state’s highest court quietly changed the rules to permit bar prosecutors to dismiss complaints that are not based on the personal knowledge of the complainant (see the “Historical Notes” at the bottom of Maryland Rule 19-711). That is exactly the stunt that Maryland officials tried when I first filed the complaint against Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers, arguing that because I obtained my evidence from public sources, they did not need to investigate my complaint. I only discovered the rule change by accident while I was drafting my latest motion.
I suppose I should be flattered that Maryland changed the rules just for little old me, but I’m not. The purpose of the rule change is to protect the powerful and the well-connected at the expense of the public. If a politically-powerful attorney gets caught doing something dirty, it’s far more likely that a third-party will file a grievance. Attorneys do not normally file bar grievances against their opposing counsel, even when they know the other attorney has done something sleazy. The same is true for judges, and clients rarely know that they have the option of reporting the misconduct of their opponent’s lawyer. Now that the public is cut out of the process, the odds are much lower that a well-connected attorney will ever face a bar investigation.
Unfortunately, the skullduggery of the Maryland bar prosecutors is not unique to Maryland, nor is it unique to Democratic states. I’ve practiced all over the U.S. and seen similar stunts elsewhere. In Texas, for example, the state bar bent itself over backwards to protect Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican. Regardless, it’s disgusting. And it’s high time the public demanded better.