Judicial Watch has filed a complaint with the Board of Professional Responsibility of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals against Christine Blasey Ford’s lawyers, Debra Katz, Lisa Banks, and Michael Bromwich. The complaint is based on the alleged failure of these lawyers to inform their client that Chairman Grassley offered to fly female staff investigators to meet Dr. Ford in California to obtain her testimony.
Rule 1.4(a) of the District of Columbia Rules of Professional Conduct requires: “A lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.” Rule 1.4(b) requires: “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.”
More than once, Chairman Grassley and/or his staff advised Ford’s counsel by letter that she could give her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh in California, which was Ford’s preference. But when Ford eventually testified in Washington D.C., she stated:
I wasn’t clear on what the offer was. If you were going to come out to see me, I would have happily hosted you and had you – had been happy to speak with you out there. I just did not – it wasn’t clear to me that that was the case.
The “you” here is Rachel Mitchell, counsel for the Committee, who questioned Ford in Washington. Thus, Ford’s testimony indicates that her lawyers failed to explain to her, in a manner reasonably necessary for her to weigh her options, that she could testify to committee counsel in California.
Ford’s testimony that she wasn’t clear on Grassley’s offer may or may not be truthful. Either way, it may put her lawyers in the position of having to contradict their client or else admit they didn’t keep her properly informed.
The Complaint assumes Ford’s testimony is truthful on this point. It also describes the likely reason why her lawyers failed to keep her properly informed:
The misconduct of Ms. Katz, Ms. Banks, and Mr. Bromwich noted above has been widely reported. It appears likely that they knowingly subordinated their client’s interest in avoiding the publicity of a Senate hearing and avoiding travel to Washington, D.C. to the desire of Democratic Senators on the Committee to have such a hearing take place in Washington, D.C.
Their failure to inform their client of the offer to have Committee staff investigate Dr. Ford in California was dishonest at worst and careless at best. Either way, it is inexcusable, and raises substantial questions about their character and fitness to practice law. It warrants a full investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Failing to keep a client properly informed in order to advance the interests of a third party, ahead of the client’s interest, would be among the most serious ethical violations imaginable. But even absent that motivation, the failure (if failure it was) runs afoul of important ethical rules.