Ethics panel, citing 'egregious' violations, recommends 33-month suspension for Larry Klayman
The Washington, D.C., attorney discipline system has recommended a multiyear law license suspension for conservative lawyer and activist Larry Klayman over allegations of professional misconduct.
Last week, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility Ad Hoc Hearing Committee handed down a 183-page report alleging Klayman breached professional ethics rules while making romantic advances toward a woman he represented. The recommendations include a suspension of his license to practice law for 33 months and that he prove his rehabilitation and fitness to gain reinstatement.
“This was written for public consumption, I believe, to defame me,” said Klayman, 68, in a phone interview with the ABA Journal.
“It’s all one-sided,” he added.
The committee’s recommendations stem from Klayman’s representation of Elham Sataki, whom he helped file a 2010 sexual harassment suit against her then-employer, Voice of America. During that time, the report says, Klayman persuaded Sataki to move to Los Angeles and offered to pay her housing and living expenses, telling Sataki she could later reimburse him.
Once in LA, the report continues, Sataki refused to engage in a romantic relationship with Klayman, at which point he increased his demands for compensation to continue representing her sexual harassment claim. Klayman never asked for, nor did the couple engage in, a sexual relationship, according to the committee.
Nevertheless, the committee charges that “it is plain beyond any question that Ms. Sataki forewent the claims that she wanted to pursue because of [Klayman’s] verbal, obsessive and unrelenting abuse of her.”
Citing the Rules of Professional Conduct for the District of Columbia, the committee noted that there were “especially egregious violations” of Rule 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation), Rule 1.4(b) (Communication), Rule 1.5(b) and 1.5(c) (Fees), Rule 1.6(a)(1) and 1.6(a)(3) (Confidentiality of Information) and Rule 1.7(b)(4) (Conflict of Interest: General). The disciplinary complaint was originally filed in 2010 by Sataki. There is no statute of limitations for these proceedings.
Klayman categorically denies the allegations and says he will file exceptions against the three-member committee’s report. If he does not, the recommendations next head to the nine-member District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility for review and further recommendation. If the board supports the recommendations for sanctions, the D.C. Court of Appeals makes a decision and doles out any punishments. The court’s decision is appealable. Klayman estimates the matter will take three to five years to complete.
For his part, Klayman says he believes “this is a political hit job” led by the left. Klayman, an outspoken and notable public figure, has a long track record of championing conservative causes and litigation. He is the founder of Freedom Watch and Judicial Watch, which brought dozens of cases against the Clinton administration. He has represented controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and activist rancher and state’s rights activist Cliven Bundy for an armed standoff with federal law enforcement officials over unpaid grazing fees.
In his defense, Klayman says similar claims stemming from his representation of Sataki were filed against him in Florida and Pennsylvania, where he has also been admitted to practice law, at around the same time the 2010 claim was filed in D.C., but those claims were dismissed.
The Journal was not able to independently verify that those claims were made or that they were dismissed. In Florida, the state bar purges claims of attorney misconduct one year after they are dismissed, according to a Florida Bar representative. In Pennsylvania, dismissed claims are also not kept on record.
Klayman is a member in good standing with the Florida Bar, but received a public reprimand in 2011 for failing to timely pay a mediated settlement to a client. He was never suspended from the practice of law in Florida. His license is currently on administrative suspension in Pennsylvania for failure to keep up with CLE requirements, according to court documents.
Unrelated to the matter involving his representation of Sataki, he faces two other discipline issues in D.C. In February 2018, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals Board on Professional Responsibility recommended Klayman be suspended for 90 days after finding that he had allegedly violated rules against client conflict of interest and giving false testimony. In documents, Klayman maintains he did nothing wrong. The D.C. Court of Appeals has not yet acted on this recommendation.
Also in 2018, another set of charges was brought against Klayman by the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel. The seven charges relate to his attempted representation of Bundy in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada. Not a member of the Nevada Bar, Klayman sought—and was denied at the district and circuit court levels—permission to be waived into the jurisdiction to represent Bundy. According to the charges, Klayman allegedly engaged in conduct “involving dishonest, deceit and misrepresentation” and “seriously interfering with or prejudicial to the administration of justice” while trying to waive into the jurisdiction.
This issue is currently under review of a hearing committee in D.C. At the time of publication, Klayman is a member in good standing of the D.C. Bar, where he has been a member since 1980.