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Law Professors File Ethics Complaint Against Kellyanne Conway

Feb. 24, 2017, 6:36 PM

Earlier this week a group of law professors filed a professional misconduct complaint against Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, saying that her false statements to the media have constituted a violation of her ethics obligations as an attorney.

The letter, filed with the office that oversees lawyer disciplinary action in D.C. on Feb. 20, cited Conway’s now-infamous “Bowling Green Massacre” comments to MSNBC and a false statement that President Barack Obama had “banned” Iraqi refugees from coming to the U.S. for six months following the massacre.

“However, President Obama did not impose a formal six-month ban on Iraqi refugees,” the letter said. “He ordered enhanced screening procedures following what actually happened in Bowling Green—the arrest and prosecution of two Iraqis for attempting to send weapons and money to al-Qaeda in Iraq.”

Conway is a graduate of George Washington University Law School who was admitted to the D.C. bar in 1995.

Law professors who filed the complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel Board of Professional Responsibility with the D.C. Court of Appeals said Conway has violated the rules of professional conduct.

Abbe Smith, a Georgetown Law professor who specializes in criminal defense, led the filing of the letter, which was signed by 15 professors who teach legal ethics. The letter cited Rule 8.4 (c), which states, “It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to [e]ngage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”

“This is an admittedly broad rule, as it includes conduct outside the practice of law and... the conduct need not be criminal,” the letter continued. The news was earlier reported by The Washington Post, and we’ve posted the letter in full below.

The letter also said that Conway “misused her position to endorse Ivanka Trump products on February 9, 2017 in an interview on Fox News from the White House briefing room with the White House insignia visible behind her. While this conduct does not fall within DC Rule 8.4, it is a clear violation of government ethics rules, about which a lawyer and member of the Bar should surely know. Federal rules on conflicts of interest specifically prohibit using public office ‘for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity.’”

Attempts to reach Conway were unsuccessful.

Gene Shipp, the disciplinary counsel of the D.C. commission charged with investigating such complaints, said he could not comment on any pending complaints.

In an interview, Smith provided some context for the filing of the complaint, saying that she coordinated the filing over the past two weeks after hearing Conway’s reference to “alternative facts” and her Bowling Green comments.

Smith said that Conway’s current law license is suspended because she hasn’t paid dues, and as far as she knows, isn’t practicing law. But Smith felt the complaint was necessary in case Conway decided to pay the dues and reinstate her law license.

“I care about the reputation of the legal profession and people know she’s a lawyer,” said Smith. “Don’t act like that and call yourself a lawyer.”

One line in the letter Smith filed, read: “We do not file this complaint lightly. In addition to being a member of the D.C. Bar, Ms. Conway is a graduate of the George Washington University Law School, one of the District’s premier law schools. We believe that, at one time, Ms. Conway, understood her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and abided by them. But she is currently acting in a way that brings shame on the legal profession.”

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