A Lawyer No More

Berger Is Disbarred After Archives Case

(By Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News)
Friday, June 8, 2007

Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, a national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, was voluntarily disbarred from the practice of law yesterday by the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Berger agreed last month to relinquish his law license to the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility, a part of the D.C. Bar, rather than submit to an investigation by the bar's counsel of his removal of classified documents from the National Archives. A three-member panel of the D.C. appellate court accepted his offer.

Berger pleaded guilty in April 2005 to taking classified material without authorization, a misdemeanor. As part of the plea agreement, Berger admitted he lied to Archives staff about taking copies of national security documents out of the building. He was fined $50,000 and barred from access to classified material for three years.

The Board on Professional Responsibility oversees ethical and professional standards for District lawyers, and the Office of Bar Counsel investigates allegations of unethical or unprofessional conduct. Bar counsel investigations are typically secret but are frequently triggered by media accounts of wrongdoing or, as in Berger's case, by criminal convictions.

"While I derived great satisfaction from years of practicing law, I have not done so for 15 years and do not envision returning to the profession," Berger said in a statement. "I am very sorry for what I did, and deeply apologize."

Forfeiture of his license means Berger does not have to answer the board's questions about the incident or risk additional publicity. He could apply for reinstatement to the bar in five years, but doing so would require that the board make public all the facts gathered in an investigation of his misconduct.

Critics have questioned the thoroughness of the Justice Department's investigation into Berger's actions at the Archives. Some Republican members of Congress have insisted that the department should have probed more deeply to assess whether Berger removed sensitive original documents involving the Clinton administration's response to warnings of terrorist activity before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Berger said he took only copies of documents. The Justice Department has said its investigation was very thorough.

-- Carol D. Leonnig

© 2007 The Washington Post Company