The Louisiana State Bar Association has finally received an ethics complaint regarding allegations, many of which he has admitted, that Sen. David Vitter engaged in multiple instances of adulterous and criminal conduct. Charlie Melancon, who is challenging Sen. Vitter in Louisiana’s 2010 U.S. Senate race, notes his frustration with the lack of accountability Sen. Vitter has faced to date for this conduct as well as the hope that the complaint will force at least a minimal level of accountability:
…[W]hat David Vitter confessed to wasn’t just a "serious sin," it was likely a crime. And so far Vitter hasn’t been charged with anything. He’s still got his law license. He’s still a U.S. Senator.
A man’s sin is his own, and with this complaint Vitter may finally have to answer for his actions. Louisiana Politics: CREW, Vitter, Melancon, Jindal, Stephen Sabludowsky, September 30, 2009.
The complaint (with exhibits) was filed by Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and charges that:
…Louisiana Rule of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) provides it is professional conduct for a lawyer to "commit a criminal act especially one that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects." By his own admission, Sen. Vitter solicited for prostitution in the District of Columbia – apparently on numerous violations – and the evidence strongly suggests he had a pattern of committing the same violations in Louisiana. Because soliciting prostitutes is a crime, Sen. Vitter clearly violated Rule 8.4(b). Sen. Vitter’s conduct is all the more egregious because he is an elected official, who has sworn an oath to uphold the law of the United States.
In the CREW press release, Ms. Sloan notes the preferential treatment Sen. Vitter has received so far in response to his admission of multiple criminal acts, especially when compared to the prostitutes employed by the same ‘madam’ from whom Sen. Vitter solicited prostitutes:
13 former prostitutes were forced to testify at the trial of the DC Madam, who committed suicide shortly after her conviction. Sloan noted that one, a former Navy supply officer and Naval Academy instructor, lost her job because the Navy requires those who serve “to adhere to a standard of conduct that reflects the Navy’s values of honor, courage and commitment.” Sloan said, “It is a shame the Senate has no such standard of conduct. It will be interesting to see what sort of standard the Louisiana Disciplinary Board chooses to apply.” [Emphasis supplied.]
It will, indeed, be interesting to see what standards the Disciplinary Counsel will choose to apply to the investigation of this complaint. In the meantime, it is interesting to review and understand the standards that the Disciplinary Counsel is mandated to apply:
The disciplinary counsel shall evaluate all information coming to his or her attention by complaint or from other sources alleging lawyer misconduct or incapacity. If the lawyer is not subject to the jurisdiction of the court, the matter shall be referred to the appropriate entity in any jurisdiction in which the lawyer is admitted. If the information, if true, would not constitute misconduct or incapacity, the matter shall be dismissed. If the lawyer is subject to the jurisdiction of the court and the information alleges facts which, if true, would constitute misconduct or incapacity, counsel shall conduct an investigation unless in the discretion of disciplinary counsel the matter qualifies for referral to the Practice Assistance and Improvement Program. [Emphasis supplied.] Section 11, Procedure for Disciplinary Proceedings, ¶A, Screening, Louisiana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement.
It is also critical to understand that, in addition to any legal and fact-based defenses that may be available to him, Sen. Vitter will continue to argue – loudly – that this complaint is just another example of political gamesmanship and that it should be summarily dismissed as such. Accordingly, this complaint is as likely, if not more likely, to be Roach Moteled – that is, it’s checked in to the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel but is never checked out – than it is to receive the proper attention and legitimate investigation it deserves.
Help this complaint get the attention it deserves by contacting the LADB, Office of Disciplinary Counsel and LSBA to respectfully demand that the Office of the Disciplinary Counsel fully comply with the Louisiana Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement:
Office of the Disciplinary Counsel
4000 S. Sherwood Forest Boulevard, Suite 607
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
Tel: (225) 293-3900 or (800) 326-8022
Fax: (225) 293-3300
The Louisiana State Bar Association
Kim H. Boyle, President
365 Canal Street, Suite 2000
New Orleans, LA 70130-6534
Tel: (504) 566-1311
Direct line: (504) 679-5790
Fax: (504) 568-9130
In what (I hope) is an encouraging sign that this investigation is, in fact, being taken seriously, the Louisiana Supreme Court visited my posts regarding the status of Sen. Vitter’s membership in the Louisiana State Bar Association the day after the complaint was filed.
Originally posted at The Grievance Project.