Law professors file misconduct complaint against Kellyanne Conway

Academics say Donald Trump's adviser should be sanctioned for violating government ethics rules and 'conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation'

Sari Horwitz
Friday 24 February 2017 07:13
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Kellyanne Conway tells Americans to 'go buy Ivanka's stuff'

A group of law professors from around the country has filed a professional misconduct complaint against White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway, a graduate of George Washington University Law School who was admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1995.

The letter, filed with the office that handles misconduct by members of the D.C. Bar, said Conway should be sanctioned for violating government ethics rules and “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation,” the letter says.

The 15 professors, who specialise in legal ethics, cite several incidents, including a television interview in which Conway made the “false statement that President Barack Obama had ‘banned’ Iraqi refugees from coming into the United States for six months following the ‘Bowling Green Massacre,’ ” and the use of her position to endorse Ivanka Trump products.

“We do not file this complaint lightly,” the professors said in their filing. “We believe that, at one time, Ms. Conway, understood her ethical responsibilities as a lawyer and abided by them. But she is currently acting in a way that brings shame upon the legal profession.”

The professors teach at law schools such as Georgetown University Law Center, Yale Law School, Fordham University and Duke University.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The letter was sent to the D.C. Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the chief prosecutor for disciplinary matters that involve active or inactive attorneys who are members of the D.C. Bar. Conway is listed as a D.C. Bar member under her maiden name, Kellyanne E. Fitzpatrick, but is a suspended member for not paying her dues, according to the disciplinary filing.

D.C. Disciplinary Counsel Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr. said that his office receives about 1,500 complaints a year but investigates only between 400 to 500 of them. The actions that can be taken range from dismissal of the complaint to the prosecution of charges and possible disbarment, he said.

“‘Alternative facts’ are not facts at all; they are lies,” the professors said in their filing.

Conway was also criticised for using her position during a February 9 interview on Fox News to endorse Ivanka Trump’s fashion products.

“Federal rules on conflicts of interest specifically prohibit using public office ‘for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise, or for the private gain of friends, relatives or persons with whom the employee is affiliated in a nongovernmental capacity,’” the complaint said.

Abbe Smith, a Georgetown Law Center professor and director of the Criminal Defense and Prisoner Advocacy Clinic, said she has never filed such a complaint before and generally does not believe that lawyers should routinely face discipline under the broad rule they cited, which includes conduct outside the practise of law.

“But Ms. Conway’s conduct was so outside the norm for a member of the legal profession,” Smith said. “What prompted our complaint was a combination of the specific conduct that Ms. Conway engaged in plus the fact that she holds such a high public office.”

The Washington Post

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