Saturday, December 15, 2012

Mara Leveritt wins a victory for the public

Posted By on Sat, Dec 15, 2012 at 7:23 AM

CASE SETTLEMENT: Mara Leveritt with Jason Baldwin, whose legal case led to a complaint by Leveritt against Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. That complaint, in turn, has led to settlement of a lawsuit over lawyer regulatory agency rules.
  • Brian Chilson
  • CASE SETTLEMENT: Mara Leveritt with Jason Baldwin, whose legal case led to a complaint by Leveritt against Attorney General Dustin McDaniel. That complaint, in turn, has led to settlement of a lawsuit over lawyer regulatory agency rules.

Speaking of citizen lawyering:

Mara Leveritt, senior contributor and spiritual mother of the Arkansas Times, has struck another blow for the public interest.

She sends word of settlement of her federal lawsuit against the state Supreme Court Committee on Professional Responsibility, which oversees lawyer conduct in Arkansas.

She challenged the rule that bound people complaining about lawyer misconduct to confidentiality. To settle the lawsuit, the committee and executive director Stark Ligon have agreed to ask the state Supreme Court to amend its rules to continue confidentiality of complaints except that a complainant would be allowed to discuss it publicly. The rule has always struck me, too, as a blatant First Amendment abridgement (as is a similar rule on complaints to the state Ethics Commission) and I have always ignored it, though a violation can bring a contempt proceeding and imprisonment for a finding of contempt. The settlement does not constitute any admission of wrong by the regulators.

Here's Leveritt's original complaint. It was filed after Ligon notified her that she could be held in contempt for making public complaints she had filed in 2011 with his office regarding to Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's actions in defending the convictions of the West Memphis Three. She contended he violated ethical rules in continuing to fight for the convictions despite an outpouring of questions that eventually led to their release. The Supreme Court committee declined to take up that complaint. It said it had no authority to review official actions such as those taken by McDaniel.

Leveritt's lawsuit will be dismissed within 10 days after the Supreme Court approves the rule change. If it does. Surely ....

PS - I should have noted originally that Jeff Rosenzweig did the successful lawyering for Mara in this case.

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