Attorneys with the State Bar of Nevada voluntarily removed themselves from hearing a disciplinary matter involving Jacob Hafter, a lawyer and former attorney general candidate who was reprimanded because of allegations he made false statements about Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto in April.
Nevada State Bar lead counsel Rob Bare said in papers filed this week that the agency had no choice but to bow out because Hafter essentially named each of the bar's three attorneys, Bare, David Clark and Phil Patee, in an effort to disqualify them.
Hafter told an online reporter that Masto, a Democrat, violated attorney-client privilege when she publicly explained why she rejected Gov. Jim Gibbons' call to join other states in a lawsuit against federal health care reform.
Hafter also told Nevada News Bureau editor Elizabeth Crum that a "reliable source" at the bar told him a complaint was filed against Masto.
Clark said Hafter, a Republican, misled Crum when he spoke to her and the general public when he issued a news release April 7 titled "Hafter Responds to Allegations Masto Violates Attorney Ethics Rules."
In that complaint, Hafter repeated his claim and "confirmed" a report that "Ms. Masto's violation was made to the State Bar."
He did not mention he was the person who attempted to make that complaint.
Hafter believes the bar's reprimand cost him the primary election and constitutes an affront to his right to free speech.
In papers filed in July, Hafter explicitly mentions Clark and Patee and requests the men be disqualified. Bare was not specifically named, but is impliedly mentioned as a potential witness.
Rules of professional conduct for attorneys preclude them from acting as an advocate in a case in which they are likely to be called as a witness.
Bare requested the bar's board of governors to appoint an attorney to act as special bar counsel when Hafter's case is heard.
Contact Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@review journal.com or 702-224-5512 or read more courts coverage at lvlegalnews.com.