Did Cuccinelli break a rule in his Fairfax appearance after all?
An article in Monday's Washington Post reported that newly sworn Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II tried a case in Fairfax juvenile and domestic relations court last week, which "did not violate any state laws or rules."
But some astute readers have pointed out that that might not be true. The rules of professional conduct of the Virginia State Bar appear to specifically prohibit such work by a government lawyer.
Cuccinelli, who had a general law practice in Centreville before his recent election, returned to the Fairfax courthouse last Tuesday for an apparently sensitive domestic relations case, his chief deputy, Chuck James, said Friday. He said Cuccinelli was handling the case on behalf of a client who hired him long before the election, that he was not paid for his work in the previously scheduled hearing, and that it served to wrap up his private practice.
James said the issue had been thoroughly researched, and "I believe the rule is, an attorney in state employment can appear and represent a client in private practice but cannot accept monies," James said.
James said Cuccinelli had previously been paid a retainer but was not paid for his appearance Tuesday. "You try not to leave any client stranded," James said, "particularly when you're dealing with sensitive issues."
A variety of lawyers queried by The Post said the attorney general's actions might have seemed odd, perhaps improper according to one legal scholar, but not illegal.
But readers pointed out that the Virginia State Bar's Rules of Professional Conduct have a whole section on "Special Conflicts Of Interest For Former And Current Government Officers And Employees."
It's Rule 1.11. And in section (d), the rule states: "Except as law may otherwise expressly permit, a lawyer serving as a public officer or employee shall not:
(1) participate in a matter in which the lawyer participated personally and substantially while in private practice or nongovernmental employment, unless under applicable law no one is, or by lawful delegation may be, authorized to act in the lawyer’s stead in the matter."
A matter is defined as "any judicial or other proceeding, application, request for a ruling or other determination, contract, claim, controversy, investigation, charge, accusation, arrest or other particular matter involving a specific party or parties."
There is no indication that anyone has filed a complaint with the state bar about Cuccinelli's actions.
James said that the issue "was fully vetted" both by the previous state attorney general "and our administration." He said Cuccinelli had "a prior existing relationship with a client" who wanted Cuccinelli to handle a sensitive matter involving children.
"We're comfortable with the decision," James said.
James also noted that "this issue was raised" in the hearing before Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court Judge Gayle B. Carr, and "the judge saw no reason to have Mr. Cuccinelli taken off the case. And the judge was uniquely situated to know the facts and circumstances surrounding this particular client," which James noted are confidential under juvenile and domestic relations court rules.
-- Tom Jackman
February 2, 2010; 11:29 AM ET
Categories: Fairfax , From the Courthouse , Politics , Tom Jackman , Updates , Virginia
Save & Share: Previous: Guilty verdict in judge-stalking case
Next: Mother, son found slain in Prince William County
Posted by: tomtildrum | February 2, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: properbostonian1 | February 2, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: WillieH | February 2, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: WalkingTom | February 2, 2010 4:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: nsu1203 | February 2, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: davebriggman | February 2, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: A_Reader | February 2, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: tomtildrum | February 2, 2010 11:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: entonces_99 | February 3, 2010 9:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: davebriggman | February 3, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: marshamaines | February 6, 2010 7:35 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.