House Speaker David Ralston addressed the State Bar complaint against him on Wednesday, claiming he did not violate Bar rules.
The good news for Ralston is that it appears he may avoid disbarment, if what he says is true. (I should probably remind everyone here I am not a lawyer, nor do I want to pretend to be one).
The two most serious accusations against him involved using the legal fees of Paul Chernak, a client of Ralston’s, to pay for Chernak’s living expenses. Ralston’s lawyers were quoted by The AJC saying the money came from “earned, but previously undisbursed legal fees from an unrelated case. Mr. Ralston denies that he said funds belonged to his other clients or third persons.”
His lawyers added: “Moreover, Mr. Ralston believed that in advancing funds to Mr. Chernak under the circumstances set forth above, and on terms to his own obvious financial disadvantage, he was performing humane acts toward Mr. Chernak and his family.”
Ralston also came under fire for allegedly abusing his legislative leave privileges in the case. Ralston postponed the case seven weeks in a 10-week period where a trial was available. For two of those weeks, Ralston was handling other cases and most critically, the defendant’s lawyer submitted leaves of absence for “at least” six of those 10 weeks, The AJC reports.