Ralston Says he Didn’t Break State Bar Rules

August 7, 2014 12:12 pm

by Ed · 5 comments

House Speaker David Ralston addressed the State Bar complaint against him on Wednesday, claiming he did not violate Bar rules.

(This and this can fill you in on some of the backstory).

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.

Corvid August 7, 2014 at 5:12 pm

This is very serious. The funds in an attorney’s Trust account do not belong to the attorney. They are held in “Trust” – this is not an operating or savings account for unrestricted use by the attorney.

In order to keep lawyers from hiding money in their Trust account, the Georgia Bar Association gets the interest on the lawyer’s Trust account for operating funds and the account uses the tax ID of the Georgia Bar.

The new big question is: why would an attorney want to keep (or even hide) funds in an account that did not pay interest to him or the firm?

here is more information on these special Trust accounts:

http://www.gabar.org/aboutthebar/lawrelatedorganizations/iolta/upload/IOLTA_Facts_Final.pdf

Ed August 8, 2014 at 8:51 am

Again, IANAL and this is a bit of an appeal to authority but even a former GA Bar prez says what the Speaker did wasn’t that bad.

There remains, however, the fact that Bar rules prohibit attorneys from loaning money to clients. But, Tate said, “That’s not quite so serious.”

Lawton Sack August 8, 2014 at 1:38 pm

IANAL = “I am not a lawyer” for those not acquainted with the unfortunate acronym.

John Konop August 9, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Corvid,

Your question about interst income is strange…..not sure what bank you use….but the interest I get is peanuts….not sure of your point…..Sevond it seems you have a real agenda in attacking the speaker.Finally can we not let the system work over spewing comments about peanuts….

Dash Riptide August 9, 2014 at 11:04 am

The idea that advancing money because you can’t find the time to do what you obligated yourself to do years ago is merely “humane”—in other words, totally altruistic—is novel, to say the least.

Still, what is the world coming to when a full-time State employee can’t run a private law practice on the side? Clients just need to understand that you hire the Speaker of the House—holder of a full-time job having nothing to do with the private practice of law—only if your end game is delay, delay, delay made possible by statutory privilege. Chernak should have fired him years ago. That’s his bad, not Ralston’s. You can’t very well expect an attorney to fire himself. Never mind that the legislators’ delay privilege is meant to inconvenience only adversaries and not the best interests of the legislators’ own clients. Never mind that the privilege was conceived on the premise that we have a 100% part-time legislature. If you’re accused rather than accursed, that shouldn’t be a problem; crime victims and accident victims can go pound sand as far as you’re concerned.

The defense rests.

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