When Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh assaulted her decades ago, she said she didn’t know that committee staffers had offered to meet her in California.
That failure now is the subject of a complaint to the Board of Professional Responsibility in the District of Columbia against Ford lawyers Debra Katz, Lisa Banks and Michael Bromwich.
Government watchdog Judicial Watch said it filed the complaint because the lawyers apparently failed to abide by a rule requiring them to “keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter.”
Judicial Watch asserted that by not informing Ford that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had offered in a letter to “fly female staff investigators to meet Dr. Ford … in California, or anywhere else, to obtain (her) testimony,” the three lawyers violated the rules of professional conduct.
Ford’s complaints were brought forward at the last minute of Kavanaugh’s confirmation process in an attempt to derail the appointment by President Trump of a conservative to the bench to replace swing-vote Anthony Kennedy.
The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had known about Ford’s allegation for six weeks before it was leaked just a week before the panel was scheduled to vote.
Judicial Watch cited Rule 1.4(a) of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct.
The rule states: “A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.”
Further, Rule 1.4(b) provides: “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”
When Ford’s claims were publicized, Katz demanded in several TV interviews that the committee hold a public hearing to hear Ford’s testimony.
Grassley honored that request, the complaint explained, sending a letter Sept. 19 informing Katz and Banks that it would be held Sept. 24.
Grassley told the lawyers the hearing could be public or private. He said Ford “could also choose to have a public or private staff interview with committee staff, either by phone or in-person.”
“To that end,” Grassley wrote, “Committee staff has attempted to contact you directly by phone and email several times to schedule a call at a time convenient for you and your client. We thus far have not heard back from you with regard to that request.”
Grassley confirmed his staff would “welcome the opportunity to speak with Dr. Ford at a time and place convenient to her.”
Another letter followed on Sept. 21, which explained that the chairman “has offered the ability for Dr. Ford to testify in an open session, a closed session, a public staff interview, and a private staff interview.”
Grassley even was willing “to fly female staff investigators to meet Dr. Ford and you in California, or anywhere else, to obtain Dr. Ford’s testimony.”
But at the hearing, a counsel for Republicans, Rachel Mitchell, asked Ford if she was told the committee had offered to come to California.
Ford’s lawyers objected because it called for “privileged conversations” to be revealed.
Ford eventually confirmed she had not understood that offer.
“It is clear, by Dr. Ford’s own testimony, that her attorneys did not communicate the committee’s multiple offers to take her testimony in California, despite the fact that this was Dr. Ford’s preferred option. In fact, Dr. Ford testified that she ‘wasn’t clear on what the offer was’ and regarded the possibility of investigators taking her testimony in California as ‘unrealistic’ – when in fact it had been specifically offered,” Judicial Watch told the board.
“The misconduct of Ms. Katz, Ms. Banks, and Mr. Bromwich noted above has been widely reported. It appears likely that they knowingly subordinated their client’s interest in avoiding the publicity of a Senate hearing and avoiding travel to Washington, D.C., to the desire of Democratic senators on the committee to have such a hearing take place in Washington, D.C.,” Judicial Watch said.
“Their failure to inform their client of the offer to have committee staff investigate Dr. Ford in California was dishonest at worst and careless at best. Either way, it is inexcusable, and raises substantial questions about their character and fitness to practice law. It warrants a full investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said the organization wants lawyers who violated ethics rules held accountable.