Business & Practice

Conservative Lawyer Loses Suits Alleging Disbarment Conspiracy

June 6, 2019, 8:11 PM

Conservative lawyer and activist Larry Klayman can’t pursue suits alleging District of Columbia disciplinary prosecutors and the D.C. Bar are conspiring to disbar him.

Three sets of charges are pending against Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch inc. and Freedom Watch Inc., in D.C.'s disciplinary system, according to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Klayman brought two separate suits in the federal district court to stop the disciplinary proceedings and obtain damages, arguing prosecutors were targeting him for his political beliefs, activism and gender.

But neither suit can proceed, Judge Randolph D. Moss said in a pair of opinions June 5. Federal courts don’t interfere in certain types of state-court matters under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Younger v. Harris, and the doctrine applies to attorney discipline proceedings in the District of Columbia, the court said.

Klayman’s claims to stop four prosecutors and their office, the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, from pursuing the ethics charges don’t fit an exception to the Younger doctrine for bad faith, and are barred, the court said.

And the prosecutors and ODC are immune to claims for damages, the court said.

Klayman’s claims against the DC Bar and its president, Esther Lim, for failing to take “remedial action,” can’t proceed because the bar has no such role in disciplinary proceedings, the court said.

Prosecutors allege,in one of the underlying disciplinary cases that Klayman represented three Judicial Watch employees in a suit against Judicial Watch related to events that took place when he was the organization’s lawyer. That created a conflict of interest, the prosecutors say.

Klayman, in another case filed by prosecutors, allegedly represented a sexual-harrassment plaintiff for a 40% contingency fee and didn’t commit the fee to writing. After the plaintiff declined Klayman’s “entreaties to establish a romantic relationship,” he told her the fee would be 50% of any recovery, according to the charges.

In a third case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada’s refusal to allow Klayman to appear there on in a separate legal case allegedly prompted him to file a civil rights suit against the judge and a flurry of petitions for review. Klaymen made baseless, frivolous, and misleading statements in those filings, the disciplinary prosecutors say.

Klayman’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct mostly lacked detail, the court said in analyzing the bad-faith exception to the Younger doctrine..

Klayman appeared pro se.

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP represented the ODC, the prosecutors, the D.C. Bar, and Lim.

The cases are Klayman v. Fox, D.D.C., No. 18-1579 (RDM), 6/5/19 and Klayman v. Lim, D.D.C., No. 18-2209 (RDM), 6/5/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Martina Barash in Washington at mbarash@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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