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Ethics panel for D.C. bar seeks to suspend conservative attorney Larry Klayman for 33 months

Lawyer Larry Klayman speaks to reporters outside the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington in 2014. (Evan Vucci/AP)

A legal ethics panel for members of the District of Columbia bar has recommended suspending conservative attorney Larry Klayman from practicing law for 33 months for “egregious” misconduct in 2010 while representing a woman who refused his romantic advances.

A report made public Wednesday by a hearing committee of the D.C. Court of Appeals’ disciplinary arm recommended that Klayman be required to prove his rehabilitation and fitness to gain reinstatement.

Klayman, 68, a Washington fixture whose active cases include lawsuits against Trump confidant Roger Stone and Infowars founder Alex Jones on behalf of writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, denied the allegations and can appeal the panel’s findings, which were contained in a 185-page report.

“It’s just a recommendation by a hearing committee,” Klayman said in an interview, adding that his appeal to the Board on Professional Responsibility and, if necessary, the court would take three to five years to resolve. He accused the review panel of partisan bias, saying, “It was a very politicized hearing committee, and I’m confident of success in the end.”

The panel ruled on a complaint brought by Elham Sataki, who retained Klayman in 2010 to file a sexual harassment suit against her former employer, Voice of America. That case was ultimately dismissed. Sataki could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

The panel concluded that the extent and “extreme nature” of Klayman’s misconduct abused the attorney-client relationship, including his fiduciary duty and obligation to consult with and abide by Sataki’s litigation decisions.

According to charges initiated by the bar’s disciplinary counsel in July 2017, Sataki alleged that Klayman induced her to move to Los Angeles, abandon her job in Washington and rely on him for housing and living expenses.

When she refused to enter a romantic relationship, he allegedly increased his compensation demands and exploited her “precarious financial position and his position as her attorney,” the report stated.

Despite her desire to pursue her case “simply and quietly,” Klayman, allegedly for his own political agenda, named unnecessary and high-profile defendants including former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and attacked the judge hearing Sataki’s case as politically biased, the report stated.

Klayman allegedly refused to withdraw from her case after Sataki fired him, then published several articles about it without her knowledge or consent in WorldNetDaily, a right-wing news aggregator site.

The report cited excerpts of communications from Klayman to his client after she rejected him, such as a text from April 23, 2010, in which he stated, “When someone u deeply care for tells u stuff like, ‘you’ll never be my Boyfriend . . . how would u feel?’ ”

In a letter later that year to a third party, Klayman wrote, “I do truly love Ellie. . . . But I do not want to hurt her and my own emotions have rendered me non-functional even as a lawyer,” according to the report.

Sataki told investigators, in a statement quoted in the report, “It was a vicious cycle and never ending and it felt like I was in an abusive relationship instead of a client/attorney relationship.”

Review panel members Warren Anthony Fitch, Mary C. Larkin and Michael E. Tigar found unanimously that Klayman’s “relentless importunings” inflicted stress and emotional pain on Sataki, concluding, “It is hard to imagine greater prejudice being caused to a client.”

The panel said it decided to reduce by three months what would have been a longer suspension recommendation, calling Klayman’s commitment to less lucrative public interest law a mitigating factor.

Klayman said Sataki at one point reported in the D.C. case that she also filed complaints against him with the Florida and Pennsylvania bars. Klayman said there was no record of such complaints, concluding they had been dismissed.

Klayman is a notably combative litigant whose no-holds-barred tactics and robust use of the Freedom of Information Act have made him a dreaded — and sometimes loathed — inquisitor.

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He has been a member of the D.C. bar since 1980 and founded the Judicial Watch legal watchdog group, whose aggressive pursuit of dozens of civil lawsuits against the Clinton administration in the 1990s made him a right-wing hero.

However, in 2003, Klayman broke from Judicial Watch and his decision led to an extended legal war.

A federal court in June reported that Klayman faces two other disciplinary proceedings before the D.C. Court of Appeals. He has appealed punishment recommended for violating attorney ethics rules by representing three individuals suing Judicial Watch without first obtaining his former client’s consent.

He has also been referred to a hearing committee after he was accused of misleading a federal judge about his disciplinary status while seeking to represent Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, whose 2014 armed standoff over federal lands with agents lifted him to national prominence among anti-government groups.

Klayman’s best-known victory in recent years came when a federal judge in 2013 ruled that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records after the 9/11 terrorist attacks were almost certainly unconstitutional. The decision was stayed pending appeal and later reversed.

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