A legal complaint against Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers could come down to how Brett Kavanaugh’s accuser understood a question during her dramatic appearance before a Senate committee considering the judge’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
The media widely reported that Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, offered on multiple occasions to Ford’s lawyers to have committee investigators interview Ford in California, where she lives.
But during the hearing Ford told the committee: “If you were going to come out to see me, I would have happily hosted you. … It wasn’t clear to me that that was the case.”
Judicial Watch, an ethics watchdog, filed a complaint alleging Ford’s lawyers didn’t let the research psychologist and professor know that she had the option of telling her story without a public spectacle.
“We are concerned that ethics rules were violated by Dr. Ford’s attorneys during the Kavanaugh confirmation and took action to get accountability,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a formal statement.
Judicial Watch filed the complaint against Ford lawyers Debra S. Katz, Lisa J. Banks, and Michael R. Bromwich with the D.C. Court of Appeals’ Board on Professional Responsibility.
The complaint says of the three lawyers, in part:
It appears likely that they knowingly subordinated their client’s interest in avoiding the publicity of a Senate hearing and avoiding travel to Washington, D.C. to the desire of Democratic Senators on the Committee to have such a hearing take place in Washington, D.C.
Their failure to inform their client of the offer to have Committee staff investigate Dr. Ford in California was dishonest at worst and careless at best. Either way, it is inexcusable, and raises substantial questions about their character and fitness to practice law. It warrants a full investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Bromwich’s law firm provided The Daily Signal with an on-the-record response it said was from Katz, Banks, and Bromwich.
In the prepared statement, the lawyers said:
We have reviewed the disciplinary complaint filed by Judicial Watch with the D.C. Court of Appeals. It is a shameful effort to politicize the bar disciplinary process. The claim that we failed to advise Dr. Christine Blasey Ford of the various options available to her in connection with her allegations that Judge– now Justice–Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s is completely false and without merit.
Dr. Ford was advised of all of her options and made her decisions based on the information we provided her. We were never told that Senator Grassley was willing personally to fly to California to meet with Dr. Ford, and that is how she understood his ambiguous question at the hearing. The suggestion that we concealed relevant information from her, or manipulated her into doing something that was contrary to her wishes, is utterly false.
As The Daily Signal previously reported, Katz and Bromwich have a history of politically charged cases.
The Senate Judiciary Committee reached Ford’s lawyers on three occasions to inform her that investigators were willing to travel to see her. A Sept. 19 letter said committee staff “would still welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her.”
On Sept. 21, committee staff sent an email to Katz saying that Grassley “has offered the ability for Dr. Ford to testify in an open session, a closed session, a public staff interview, and a private staff interview. The Chairman is even willing to fly female staff investigators to meet Dr. Ford and you in California, or anywhere else, to obtain Dr. Ford’s testimony.”
Grassley made a similar assertion in a Sept. 21 tweet.
Five times now we hv granted extension for Dr Ford to decide if she wants to proceed w her desire stated one wk ago that she wants to tell senate her story Dr Ford if u changed ur mind say so so we can move on I want to hear ur testimony. Come to us or we to u
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) September 22, 2018
On Sept. 22, staff wrote again in an email to Ford’s lawyers that “committee investigators are available to meet with Dr. Ford, anywhere and anytime, if she would prefer to provide her testimony outside of a hearing setting.”
Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who questioned Ford during the televised committee hearing Sept. 27, asked about her stated reluctance to fly to Washington for a hearing.
Mitchell at one point asked Ford: “Was it communicated to you by your counsel or someone else, that the committee had asked to interview you and that–that they offered to come out to California to do so?”
Bromwich objected to the question, claiming Mitchell asked about a “privileged conversation.”
Ford eventually answered:
I just appreciate that you did offer that. I wasn’t clear on what the offer was. If you were going to come out to see me, I would have happily hosted you and had you–had been happy to speak with you out there. I just did not–it wasn’t clear to me that that was the case.
Judicial Watch cited two rules of the Rules of Professional Conduct followed by the D.C. Bar:
Rule l.4(a) – A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.
Rule 1.4(b) – A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.