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Legal Ethics

Irked About Discipline Complaint Over Federal Suit, Lawyer and Kin of Murdered Kids Contact Media

Posted Aug 29, 2012 2:07 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A Michigan lawyer is fighting back against a legal ethics complaint made by a county prosecutor's office concerning what it contends is a frivolous federal district court lawsuit.

Paul Hughes said at a Wednesday news conference that he is outraged to be subjected to an ethics complaint over the suit, which he filed earlier this year on behalf of a mom seeking answers in a decades-old child-murder case, the Detroit Free Press reports.

He also promised to file a legal ethics complaint himself concerning a prosecutor's claimed comment that he specializes in dog-bite cases.

“Never, in 25 years of being a trial attorney, have I had a grievance filed against me by attorneys in a lawsuit,” Hughes said at the news conference today.

At his side were his client, Deborah Jarvis, and the brother of another murdered child, who said he, too, supports the goal of the lawsuit—to get the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office and a Michigan State Police task force to turn the 36-year-old case over to the U.S. Department of Justice for a fresh look. It involves four children murdered during a 13-month period in the 1970s.

Citing Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission confidentiality rules, Paul Walton, who serves as chief assistant Oakland County prosecutor, declined the newspaper's request for comment about the disciplinary complaint he made last month.

The prosecutor's office has filed a motion to dismiss the federal district court suit that Hughes filed, but apparently no ruling has yet been made on that motion. A hearing is scheduled next month on Hughes' request that the case be turned over the the DOJ.

In a two-part series in June, the Detroit Free Press detailed the frustrations and concerns of victims' family members and some of those who investigated it about the case, but indicated the long-ago slayings are unlikely to be solved now regardless of who is in charge of the probe.

Former county prosecutor L. Brooks Patterson, who is now Oakland County Executive, suggested that family members who wish to do so should be allowed to look at the investigation materials and try to get some closure, the first of the two stories reported.

"I think it's a tragedy these families are getting older and will pass away without having a moment's peace with this thing," Patterson said.

In the second article, the newspaper focuses on two possible suspects, both of whom were convicted of sex crimes concerning children, and both of whom are now dead.

An elderly lawyer whose 11-year-old son was among the murder victims, told the newspaper he believes one of the two men was responsible. While nothing can now be done to prosecute, if attorney Barry King is correct, he wants to know what happened.

"If they don't think there was enough evidence ... then sit down and tell me," King said of the investigators in charge of the murder case. "And if it's for some other reason that might cause embarrassment to somebody, then I don't give a damn."

Additional coverage:

CBS Detroit (April 2012): "Lawsuit Calls For Justice In Oakland County Child Killer Case"

Detroit Free Press: "Suit from mother of Oakland County Child Killer victim 'short on facts,' county argues"

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