Attacking David Ralston Now A Full-Time Hobby

June 27, 2014 7:00 am

by Mike Hassinger · 36 comments

Speaker David Ralston faces an inquiry from the Supreme Court of Georgia regarding a complaint filed by a former client.  The complaint alleges that Ralston did not get the client a speedy trial because his service as a legislator conflicted with the trial calendar, and that Ralston had a duty to turn the case over to another attorney.  The complaint also accuses Ralston of advancing the client money from his trust account to cover the client’s expenses, which is probably the biggest no-no in the legal world. But there are a couple of points to consider:

1) David Ralston has just finished  a very bitter and personal campaign where the (very sore) losers vowed to continue fighting to bring Ralston down.  Debbie Dooley says “This is just the tip of the iceberg. I have a whole list of people that may be filing complaints and getting in front of a camera.” So even if the primary campaign is over, it’s still ok to file complaints and preen for the cameras? Got it.

2) How much “there” is there? Aaron Gould Sheinin of the AJC caught up with Lester Tate, the former Georgia Bar Association president and chairman of the Bar’s investigative panel, who said that “it appears as if the Bar’s investigators “added every charge they possibly could“…” -which is something you will have to work hard to find published anywhere else.

3) Can a sitting legislator in a rural area with a circuit court (that is, a sitting legislator outside of the metro Atlanta area) effectively manage a caseload?  How many legislators are lawyers?

May 20th was a speed bump to Ralston’s opponents.  Their crusade campaign continues. Along the way, however, they may have discovered some accounting issues that constitute a real problem.  And while there is a presumption of innocence in court proceedings and State Bar investigations, there’s only the opposite in politics. Which is what this is.

xdog June 27, 2014 at 7:26 am

I don’t know much about the law business but I’m trying to think of legitimate reasons why an attorney would send a client $22k via 12 checks. Let’s see those cancelled checks.

SmyrnaModerate June 27, 2014 at 8:51 am

agree the biggest issue is the advancing a client money against a future settlement, that is as close to an automatic disbarment an attorney can do. regardless of how the compliant got to the state bar, that is real trouble for the Speaker’s law license if that really happened. the rest of it seems typical disgruntled client stuff that the Bar would usually dismiss.

bgsmallz June 27, 2014 at 9:33 am

If you go to the GA Bar Rules…Rule 1.8(e)..advancing money is acceptable if it is for ‘court costs and the expense of litigation’…however, if it is for ‘medical assistance’ as claimed by the accuser, the maximum penalty under the bar rules would be a public reprimand. This is not the ‘real trouble.’ Using another client’s trust account is the big accusation…

Chris Huttman June 27, 2014 at 8:59 am

The guy is a deadbeat. The Tea Party didn’t make the most articulate case, but you add this new evidence to the fact that he’s had nearly one million dollars in liens placed on him for unpaid taxes…why are we surprised?

bgsmallz June 27, 2014 at 9:50 am

What ‘evidence’? You mean the claims of an estranged client yet to be adjudicated?

My favorite part of the complaint…the client clearly asked for him to help with his bills…which Ralston allegedly does by advancing money…”Thanks for the help…you’re fired, here’s your bar complaint, and I’m not paying you back.” As long as you’re throwing verbal grenades…

If he did co-mingle accounts, then that will be easily proven and you can bury him along with the bar association. However, calling any of this ‘evidence’ without considering the source is a bit of a leap and the kind of ‘politics’ that consultants get excited about but that the rest of us hate.

Chris Huttman June 27, 2014 at 10:37 am

Just saying – close to people who ran Thurbert’s successful ’98 campaign against the guy who are very familiar with him and his record and they say he is not a good guy.

Michael Silver June 27, 2014 at 10:42 am

The problem with practicing law is that your clients are liars, thieves, sleazebags, crooks and scary violent. They are the ones that pay the bills. You work for free (ie contingency) for the shysters and greedy idiots. The customer’s of law practices are not savory folk.

I predict that when the facts of this complaint are heard, the only thing Speaker Ralston will be guilty of is having a big heart and wanting to help someone in difficult circumstances.

As for the BAR Association and the Tea Party who have an odd personal vendetta against Speaker Ralston, they’ll be the big losers.

tribeca June 27, 2014 at 10:52 am

I don’t really think “consider the source” is your best argument. By that I mean that the overwhelming majority of bar complaints are going to come from disgruntled, estranged clients. If there is merit to the case, the state bar will sort it all out

Ed June 27, 2014 at 9:36 am

Does Debbie ever follow through on threats? I mean, just because she says something doesn’t mean there’s sizzle to that steak. FWIW.

eddiep June 27, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Might ask Don Balfour if she does.

Michael Silver June 28, 2014 at 8:50 am

The big question is …. does Debbie and the Georgia Tea Party think through their actions?

Here they are attacking a guy over his personal and professional life, not what he is doing in the Legislature. If that is the standard MO, why aren’t they going after others on that basis? The Tea Party’s focus on Speaker Ralston, while Rome burns is pretty disgusting.

The Comma Guy June 27, 2014 at 10:18 am

Here’s a story from 2 years ago by WSB. Seems like Speaker Ralston might need to hire an associate or two to handle his practice while out of town.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/can-ga-speaker-handle-two-full-time-jobs/nMjdW/

debbie0040 June 28, 2014 at 9:45 am

Email we sent out last night. Includes more information.

http://us8.campaign-archive1.com/?u=279aad27db90a781083339e59&id=7972d7e916

John Konop June 28, 2014 at 10:41 am

Debbie,

In all due respect, the real issue from a risk stand point and ethics in my opinion is did he have proper coverage of the money paid out. If he had proper asset coverage than this could be an honest accounting mistake. The danger is sending out checks from accounts that a lawyer cannot cover to one client to another clients account. But if he merely missed up on movement of money and did not following proper procedures, but at all times could cover the mistake ie client never at risk…..this is not a big deal in my opinion. Obviously the law was attended to cover the risk to a client……As far as floating money to clients on cases like this…..is not abnormal from what I understand. I think all of us should chill out till the facts come out……Just my 10 cents….

debbie0040 June 28, 2014 at 11:28 am

Please take time to read the complaint filed by the bar. It has details and facts in it that shows what happened. It was not simply an accounting error. The GA Bar would have never referred this to the Supreme Court if they did not have strong evidence to back it up and if were a gray area. They accused the Speaker of the House of misconduct and he faces possible disbarment. Do you honestly believe they would have done that over an accounting error? Trial lawyers have donated heavily to David Ralston.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuI3QvGEMZY

From the complaint: WHEREFORE, the State Bar of Georgia requests that Respondent be
appropriately disciplined for the disciplinary violations alleged in this formal
complaint.

xdog June 28, 2014 at 12:42 pm

You’ve already bought the rope, haven’t you? My dim knowledge of the law suggests that the referral of the charges is roughly the same as an indictment. I don’t equate arrest and indictment with guilt in criminal cases so I’ll let the special master make a judgement before I condemn Ralston.

One interesting thing is the charges can’t seem to decide if it’s 11 or 12 checks in question. You’d think someone would have caught that.

Dash Riptide June 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm

“But if he merely missed up on movement of money and did not following proper procedures, but at all times could cover the mistake ie client never at risk…..this is not a big deal in my opinion.”

It doesn’t work that way. Lawyers can’t secretly (or otherwise) borrow from happy client Peter to appease neglected client Paul, no matter how financially successful their overall practice is. It’s taboo. The only lawyers who are exempt from this professional standard are lawyers who are very busy and important.*

*Suggested exemption pending tacit Supreme Court approval in a proper case.

John Konop June 29, 2014 at 1:59 am

The amount of interest saved on this transaction was not a lot with rates this low….I could get it being a real issue if he did not have the proper coverage ratios….I am not getting how he is really saving that much money in this transaction…..Do the math…if it was a material amount of savings, not enough credit…….than you would have some meat on the bone…Like you I do not know all the details….

Dash Riptide June 29, 2014 at 9:39 am

I know the details alleged. You are suggesting the details alleged are trifling. The State Bar begs to differ.

As to the notion that the investigators threw in every charge they could think of, that is the proper approach to take when the problem appears to be systemic. A rather exclusive statutory privilege allows this particular lawyer to play the Speaker card whenever he needs to claim a scheduling conflict. And unlike other lawyer legislators, the Speaker is the Speaker all year long. This particular Speaker claims duties attendant to that position every single month of the year. He is alleged to be abusing that privilege to the detriment of at least one client (who, according to his current attorney, has a very good claim). Instead of taking care of business, he allegedly strung the client along with petty advances for years, allegedly ruining their lives. And when they finally fired him (and he allegedly should have withdrawn before it got to that point), it was allegedly like pulling teeth to get him to turn over the client’s file. While there is a statutory privilege that allows the Speaker to claim conflicts to put off court business, the statute ultimately does not excuse him from his professional duties. And the Supreme Court has made it clear that no statute can interfere with its exclusive responsibilities over regulation of the practice of law.

But the good news is that even if the allegations are true, if it turns out he had the proper coverage ratios, then at least he’ll remain a member in good standing in the State Konop of Georgia. The State Bar? That’s a different question.

debbie0040 June 30, 2014 at 9:32 pm

This is not an isolated incident. Stay tuned.

John Konop June 30, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I am only going by what I read….the truth is I have never met the speaker…..have no idea even what he looks like…..My father sat on the department committee in Ohio. As a son of a lawyer, I am not for hanging people before we all get all the facts….I guess you have no issue playing judge and jury…..if you were on the department committee you would make your judgements without hearing both sides….why even have a justice system….we could just call you.

Dash Riptide June 30, 2014 at 10:52 pm

I haven’t said a word against the Speaker. My criticism is directed against those who suggest that these allegations aren’t serious or are just part of a vast Tea Party conspiracy. If you want to argue that it’s inappropriate to politicize this bar complaint, then I’m with you. But counter-politicizing in response to extrinsic Tea Party cheerleading in the peanut gallery is just as inappropriate.

You say let the process work? Glad to hear you’re coming around.

debbie0040 July 1, 2014 at 8:29 am

This issue was politicized when the GA Bar held the complaint almost 8 months when their rules stated the report should have been submitted December 1st.

We just don’t want to see it swept under the rug. I had nothing at all to do with the complaint that was turned over to the Supreme Court.. There is documentation to back up this complaint – not simple he said she said

There are other instances.. It is a pattern and some date back to before David Ralston became Speaker .

John Konop July 1, 2014 at 6:49 am

Debarment sorry…

UpHere June 28, 2014 at 1:54 pm

all I can say is I hope Jan Jones is ready. This guy was suppose to be above reproach after Glenn Richardson and look what we have with him. At this point, I would rather have Glenn back.

The House Republicans have to be thinking of getting rid of him. I don’t see how he can withstand this.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 29, 2014 at 12:13 am

“At this point, I would rather have Glenn back.”

No you don’t….It could never be THAT bad.

debbie0040 June 28, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I have been investigating procedures involved with GA Bar Complaints and I found something very interesting. It appears the GA Bar Investigative Panel colluded to protect David Ralston until after his primary election was over. Clearly they did not want to harm his re-election.

According to GA Bar 4-204.4 in CHAPTER 2 DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS

– “The documents specified above shall be filed in duplicate within thirty (30) days of the finding of Probable Cause unless the Investigative Panel, or a subcommittee of the Panel, or its Chairperson grants an extension of time for the filing.”

http://www.gabar.org/barrules/handbookdetail.cfm?what=rule&id=114

Complaint
https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/gaintegrityproject/pages/1/attachments/original/1403900695/Ralston_complaint.pdf?1403900695

If you look at the complaint attached on Page 3 “NOTICE OF FINDING OF PROBABLE CAUSE”, the date the Investigative Panel ruled there was probable cause was November 1, 2013.

Michael Silver June 28, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Let’s see …. we got Obama creating an immigration crisis to give Boehner political cover to push for Amnesty that Boehner and his corporate owners want …. we’ve seen an Establishment Republican openly colluding with Obama Democrats to defeat a Conservative Republican … we got ISIS threatening the mideast and quickly erasing any good we did in Iraq …… We got rampant waste and fraud in our social programs and a staggering increase in the national debt, most of which was passed by Republicans.

…. all of which you and Tea Party are silent about. Instead, you are focusing on Speaker Ralston’s checking account. I think the Tea Party has lost its way.

debbie0040 June 28, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Michael, don’t know what rock you live under, but we have been very out front and focal about those issues. You should really try pulling yourself out from under Speaker Ralston’s shadow every now and then..You just want us to focus on national issues and ignore the unethical behavior of Republicans in Georgia. You are blinded and hypocritical..

Michael Silver June 30, 2014 at 9:12 am

I’m hiding under the rock with my eyes closed because I can’t watch what the Georgia Tea Party is doing without vomiting.

Here are my big objections to this effort against Speaker Ralston:

1) The smear tactics being used against the Speaker are the very same tactics and methods the Leftists use against Conservatives. You threw out an accusation and then condemn the man before he can provide a defense in the proper forum. The Georgia Tea Party’s efforts are exactly the same as what is being done to Gov. Walker in Wisconsin by the Leftist media.

2) These charges do not affect his role as Speaker or his obligation to the citizens of Georgia. Its a private matter unrelated to state business or interest. In the extremely unlikely event he gets disbarred, that would not make him ineligible for his Speakership. Frankly the odds of Speaker Ralston being disbarred or punished over this administrative issue are the same as the odds that he will declare he is marrying RuPaul and moving to San Francisco to open a shoe boutique for large sized women.

3) We have a part-time Legislature. These folks leave their families, businesses, and homes for 40 days a year. They do so because they want to honorably serve the state and its citizens. If you had to leave your family, business, and home for 40 days, don’t you think a couple things would fall through the cracks? They deserve and have earned a mulligan for errors that happen in their personal life .

xdog June 30, 2014 at 10:05 am

“The Georgia Tea Party’s efforts are exactly the same as what is being done to Gov. Walker in Wisconsin by the Leftist media.”

You have a very strange idea about what’s happening to Walker.

On point #2, let’s wait and see. Most lawyers go through their careers without facing bar proceedings. You can bet Ralston is taking it a lot more seriously than you are.

Point #3 is bs. You make it sound as if Ralston is serving in a war-zone. With RuPaul. If he can’t manage his caseload professionally, maybe he shouldn’t even try. It shouldn’t take long to say ‘damn, I’m busy running the lege, better move this to X’s desk’. I won’t address the question of payments except to say if they were pulled from an account where client monies were commingled, or if the accounting for the 11 or 12 checks is the least bit squirrelly, it’s game over.

debbie0040 June 30, 2014 at 9:34 pm

So you guys really believe this is an isolated incident? How special that really is.
You need to keep on defending Speaker Ralston. He is lucky to have friends such as you…

The Speaker is going to marry Ru Paul , move to San Francisco and open a shoe boutique??

debbie0040 July 1, 2014 at 8:34 am

David Ralston is NOT part time. He is full time as Speaker and draws a 99,000 per year salary.

The question is how much will Ralston taint the GOP ticket ? With the 3 million dollar payout to former ethics employees to settle whistle blower lawsuits, ethics will surely be an issue the Dems will use in the General and now all the things that have come out about Ralston.

Three Jack June 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Michael,

Your analysis is spot on! I would be willing to bet David Ralston has a much more conservative track record than the recently endorsed Tea Party rising star Jack Kingston, a life long ‘king of pork’ (Debbie’s description) politician running against a successful businessman with no political experience. They have let personal feelings overtake any sense of common intelligence.

debbie0040 June 28, 2014 at 9:47 pm

Sam Snider to Seek House of Representatives’ District 7 Seat

Posted by Staff Writer in Featured Stories, Politics, Sports

Thursday, September 19, 2013

http://gilmer.fetchyournews.com/archives/4544-Sam-Snider-to-Seek-House-of-Representatives-District-7-Seat.html

WeymanCWannamakerJr June 30, 2014 at 9:45 am

Dear Debbie,
Hassinger infers what you are doing is a hobby but it appears to be a bit more than that to me. I’ve got to say you have me quite interested. I once figured TV preachers for the easiest gigs but in all honesty my conscience won’t let me go that route. Taking in $20 mil per year for a “social welfare” organization ain’t half bad even if you have to give up half off the top to the money grubbers. Then all you have to do is occasionally do a little character assassination like this and gripe on TV a lot. Sweet.

I know you can lose the non-profit for promoting candidates but carping about them is more up my alley anyway and obviously it is your forte as well. Besides that with Lois Lerner and Shulman giving you carte blanche with their blunders it appears the field is wide open now. How did you land this gig? How can I get a foothold in this obvious growth industry?

Comments on this entry are closed.