How State Bars Are Taking Down Conservative Attorneys

Arizona bar disciplinary judge William O’Neil

Reposted from Townhall
By Rachel Alexander

State bars across the country have become havens for the left in recent years, increasingly used to target conservative attorneys. With deep pockets — due to the exorbitant amount of dues they charge attorneys in order to practice law — it is impossible to fight back once targeted. More than half of state bars are mandatory, which means they are unavoidable if you want to practice law. This is very disturbing, considering many of these states have right-to-work laws. Why are attorneys required to join a union?

Arizona has one of the most corrupt state bars in the country. Many attorneys have lost their jobs, reputations and livelihoods, in large part due to the Arizona bar’s disciplinary Judge William O’Neil. Arizona is a conservative state, but the left controls the legal system here. They have put in their guy O’Neil, a Democrat, who apparently does whatever they say. He particularly seems to go after conservative attorneys. And even if he just suspends a conservative attorney for a brief period of time, he usually finds some technical reason to never let them back into the practice of law.

It has started to hurt business in Arizona, since fewer people are risking becoming attorneys in the state, as word about his draconian rulings has spread. One frivolous bar complaint?  Your entire career could be destroyed. Several sites have popped up exposing the Arizona bar recently, including Working for a Better Bar and Judges Gone Wild. Legislation has been introduced over the last two years to reduce the bar’s power and make it non-mandatory.

Hardly anyone dares to stand up to O’Neil — because he can ruin any attorney or judge, as the disciplinary judge over all licensed attorneys in the state.

Let’s compare how Judge O’Neil treats conservative attorneys vs. his cronies, such as fellow judges, when it comes to bar complaints. Jeffrey Moffatt, who doesn’t even practice law in Arizona but is a member of the Arizona bar, ran for Congress in California as a Republican this past year. Some woman in New Mexico complained to the New Mexico bar and the California bar that he had asked her for a nude photo. She was not a client; at most a prospective client. The New Mexico bar properly dismissed the complaint since it had nothing to do with the practice of law and she wasn’t a client.

Moffatt had emailed her on October 28, 2013. She filed a complaint with the California State Bar a few days later. Since Moffatt was not licensed with that bar, it was referred to the Arizona bar, but rather untimely — one and a half years later. The California bar has its own history of corruption, known for ignoring complaints. Arizona Bar Counsel filed a complaint against Moffatt over two years later, on November 9, 2015.

Soliciting nude photos — akin to prostitution — is a criminal misdemeanor. In Arizona, the statute of limitations for filing a criminal complaint for prostitution is one year, so the complaint was filed against Moffatt after the period had tolled.

What is even more disturbing about this, is that Moffatt never got a criminal trial; he never had jurors decide his case, as is required by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, the state bar ignored his right to due process, and ruled on what should have been a minor criminal issue.  

The Arizona bar implicated him under ethical rule 8.4(b), which had been quietly modified recently to make it a criminal violation.

8.4(b) now says in pertinent part that a lawyer may not “commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”

This ethical rule is blatantly unconstitutional, and I hope Moffatt challenges it all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. What jury determined that Moffatt had committed a crime? This ethical rule and its precedent with Moffatt should frighten any attorney —  I hope organizations like the ACLU are looking at this.

But Judge O’Neil disbarred Moffatt. That’s right, he didn’t just censure him, give him probation or a suspension. He threw the book at him as if he was some criminal. He ignored that the statute of limitations had passed to prosecute him.

There are plenty of Arizona attorneys who behaved much worse sexually than Moffatt, but because they were connected or “did what they were told” and hired the “right” counsel to represent them in disciplinary proceedings, they didn’t get much more than a wrist slap from Judge O’Neil. One victim of O’Neil’s on another matter told me that insiders told him to hire some overpriced law firm O’Neil favors for $20k and that would get him off the hook. He didn’t, and so now his law license is indefinitely suspended, with $100k hanging over his head.

One of these key attorneys who has gotten many attorneys off the hook, who I’m told is one of the most corrupt attorneys in Arizona, Scott Rhodes, boasts on his website, “In 2011, the Arizona Supreme Court appointed Mr. Rhodes to serve on its Attorney Regulation Advisory Committee. This Committee makes recommendations regarding attorney examination, admissions, reinstatement, disability and the lawyer discipline process.” Rhodes has a long history of connections to the state bar and the biggest Democratic-controlled law firms in the state.

TED ABRAMS

In contrast to Moffatt, look how O’Neil treated his fellow judge Ted Abrams. O’Neil merely suspended him for two years and barred him from being a judge. Here is Abrams’ extensive history of sexual harassment, as reported by The Arizona Republic:

During a 14-month period, the judge sent the unidentified public defender at least 28 voicemails and 85 text messages, many of which were sexually suggestive (at least one was, he admitted, “obscene,” and described a sex act he wanted to perform on her), repeatedly pressured her for sex, made slurping noises and at one point fondled her buttock. In response, the public defender said she wasn’t interested, repeatedly told him that it would be inappropriate for them to have a relationship because he was a judge, she worked in his courtroom and he was married. She called him him “crazy and disgusting.”

Abrams, 47, also had a sexual relationship with another attorney, a private defense lawyer who appeared in his court, and he sent sexually explicit e-mails to a third attorney, an assistant city prosecutor who appeared in his court.

The state bar brief said the judge “victimized a young lawyer for his own personal gratification and when she did not enjoy, welcome or otherwise relent to his constant requests for sexual contact, he berated and humiliated her from the bench during a jury trial.” The victim also said Abrams told her that it would not be good for her career if she rejected his advances. After the short suspension, it appears that he is about to be reinstated to the Arizona bar.

FRED ACKEL

Fred Ackel, another judge, was punished by the Arizona Supreme Court for his sexual misbehavior with a mere censure. Not even suspension, probation, etc.

A litigant who appeared in front of Ackel to stop a man from harassing her, was — ironically — so disturbed by the judge’s constant sexual remarks and attempt to have a romantic relationship with her, that she started tape recording him. His comments about sex were extraordinarily vulgar. Perhaps most disturbing, he told her in regards to the man harassing her, “If I have to raise some more hell, I’ll have him arrested.”

The court said in its opinion, “We agree with the Commission that Ackel’s conduct toward Randall constituted willful misconduct.” The court also noted that he’d had six prior complaints — and one they considered an aggravating factor, where he had called a female attorney during a pretrial conference “darling,” and commented on her legs. In fact, the court found a second aggravating factor, “Ackel’s regular use of endearing terms toward and physical contact with women.”

In contrast, Judge O’Neil admitted in his opinion that a mitigating factor in Moffatt’s case was the “absence of a prior disciplinary record.”

CHARNA JOHNSON

Charna Johnson is an attorney who was found to have had sex with a client, as well as channeling the dead to communicate to clients. The bar also reported, “Johnson represented her client in a divorce proceeding and drafted a will, leaving all the assets for herself.” Despite the fact that “Five aggravating factors were found: prior disciplinary offenses, dishonest or selfish motive, submission of false evidence, refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of conduct and substantial experience in the practice of law,” Johnson was merely suspended for one year.

MATTHEW SCHULTZ

Attorney Matthew Schultz admitted he had a sexual relationship with a client, and was just suspended for one year.

ROBERT STANDAGE

Government attorney Robert Standage, unlike Moffatt, actually did send sexual images and videos to an existing client. He was already on probation for a previous incident, but Judge O’Neil merely suspended him for two years. His attorney — no surprise — was Scott Rhodes.

Arizona Bar ethical rule (ER) 1.8(j) was cited in most of these cases. It says, “A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client unless a consensual sexual relationship existed between them when the client-lawyer relationship commenced.”

Moffatt never even had an attorney-client relationship with the woman who complained about him. He merely asked her for a nude photo. Unlike most of these other attorneys, he did not pursue a sexual relationship after hiring a client or when he was involved with them in the legal system.

Judge O’Neil allowed an attorney friend of his who had killed a woman while drinking and driving to continue practicing law in prison. This same attorney had helped O’Neil out with an unethical short sale of his mother-in-law’s property, where she got to continue living in the house but got all the debt paid off.

Judge O’Neil suspended my license for six months and won’t let me get it back until I’ve paid $101,500 — the cost of the trial against not just me but my two superiors. Extortion, anyone? The Bar brought in pricey lawyers from out of state, including one who may be impersonating a lawyer.

This is nothing more than disparate treatment. Moffatt is being targeted because he was a Republican running for office, as well as an out-of-state solo practitioner without the deep pockets of a big-firm attorney, so the Arizona bar thinks he’s an easy target. The abuse needs to stop, state bars need to become voluntary associations only. Whatever happened to equal treatment under the law and justice for all?


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