Guns and Gear

Formal complaint seeks disbarment of Eric Holder in DC

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Attorney General Eric Holder could lose his license to practice law in the District of Columbia, or face some other penalty from the D.C. Bar, now that he has been found in criminal and civil contempt of Congress.

Last week, the bloggers who first exposed Operation Fast and Furious, Mike Vanderboegh and David Codrea, filed a formal complaint with the Washington, D.C. Office of Bar Counsel alleging that Holder committed “professional misconduct” during the congressional investigation into the scandal.

Because Holder was found in contempt of Congress for his “refusal to comply with a subpoena duly issued by the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform,” Vanderboegh and Codrea contend, “[i]t would appear that several, if not all of these rules [the D.C. Bar’s rules of professional conduct], have been violated.”

Wallace “Gene” Shipp in the Office of Bar Counsel told The Daily Caller that he can’t confirm or deny the receipt of any specific complaint. (RELATED: Complete coverage of Operation Fast and Furious)

Vanderboegh and Codrea each published the complaint they jointly registered on their individual blogs “[b]ecause of the serious political ramifications involved, and because some on the Board may be sympathetic to AG Holder’s positions and hostile to those of the House contempt charges, and in order to ensure that this complaint receives proper attention and is not ignored through deliberate indifference.”

Arizona Republican Rep. Ben Quayle told TheDC he believes the D.C. Bar should investigate whether the attorney general violated its ethics code.

“I think an investigation is definitely warranted since it’s been brought to the bar’s attention,” Quayle said in a phone interview. “He has engaged in dishonesty and misrepresentation to Congress and I think it definitely warrants an investigation by the D.C. Bar.”

Quayle added that he doesn’t think Holder’s position as attorney general or his political clout should protect him from any investigation.

“He’s a member of the bar and just because he’s attorney general doesn’t make him above the law and above the bar association’s rules of professional conduct,” Quayle said. “I think his conduct in the investigation of Fast and Furious rises to the level of actually looking into whether he violated professional conduct with his conduct in the investigation.”

Even though he wouldn’t talk specifics, Shipp did walk TheDC through how his office — which “investigates and prosecutes attorney misconduct for the 97,000 members of the DC Bar” — handles such matters.

“If a complaint comes in the front door, we read it [and] then assess whether the facts set out in it could be a violation of the rules of professional conduct,” Shipp said in a phone interview. “If there’s something to them and there could be a violation, then we’ll open a confidential investigation. That investigation would then be conducted by someone in this office. We get about 1,500 of these a year.”

“We also read the newspapers and we also read all the court opinions and we read all the blogs we can and all sorts of stuff like that and we do not have to have a complaint to undertake an investigation,” Shipp continued.

“We can open one based on our observation of something that interests us. Then, once the investigation is concluded, we conclude the investigation by dismissing it … or to informally admonish or to bring charges against an attorney. Informal admonishing or bringing charges against an attorney are public – and, at that point, the matter would be public if it ever reached that stage.”

“We prosecute around 50 lawyers a year, and we do formal investigations into about 500 cases,” Shipp added.

Holder’s spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, did not return TheDC’s request for comment.

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