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Lawsuit claims state bar leaked disciplinary details about lawyer

Las Vegas attorney David Phillips filed a defamation lawsuit Thursday that accuses the State Bar of Nevada of leaking confidential information about him to the press.

Phillips, who is representing himself in the case, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas. Also named as defendants are assistant bar counsel Glenn Machado and Phil Pattee, although their names were spelled incorrectly in the complaint.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in August that the State Bar was investigating seven grievances against Phillips, including one filed by District Judge Elissa Cadish.

Pattee, spokesman for the organization, told the newspaper the pending grievances against Phillips were confidential beyond a general description of the allegations, which involved issues such as diligence, communication with clients, attorney fees and safekeeping of property.

The spokesman said the State Bar itself filed a grievance over an allegation that Phillips practiced law in January 2013, when he was suspended for about a month after failing to complete required continuing education.

Pattee said all of the grievances would be presented to the bar’s Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board, which can dismiss them, issue a proposed letter of reprimand or order a formal disciplinary hearing.

The spokesman said any matters that were not dismissed would be made public.

Kimberly Farmer, the State Bar’s executive director, declined to comment on Phillips’ lawsuit Friday.

Phillips claims the bar violated his right to due process by leaking information to the press about his grievances.

“Plaintiff alleges that defendant has made defamatory statements to the Review-Journal which as disseminated around Nevada and the country and concerning his personal business reputation as an attorney and criminal misconduct, which amounts to slander per se,” according to the lawsuit.

The Review-Journal’s August story also focused on details of an unrelated matter involving a Maryland lawyer who has filed a federal lawsuit against Phillips. The lawsuit, which is pending in Las Vegas, accuses Phillips of raping the woman at a legal conference in 2012. The woman, April Ademiluyi, made a report to Tampa, Fla., police, but no criminal charges were filed.

Phillips’ defamation lawsuit against the State Bar of Nevada includes a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress, and it seeks an injunction to prohibit the defendants “from causing any more damage by releasing information to the press or anyone else not entitled to see his grievances.”

In addition, Phillips is seeking punitive damages for the defendants’ “malicious and reckless conduct.”

His lawsuit cites a Nevada Supreme Court a rule that states, “All proceedings involving allegations of misconduct by an attorney shall be kept confidential until the filing of a formal complaint.”

The rule also states, however, that the “bar may disseminate the procedural status and the general nature of a grievance or complaint upon request.”

Phillips was licensed to practice law in Nevada in 1983.

State Supreme Court records show that his license was suspended in December 1991 after two clients complained about not receiving money due them. The Supreme Court reinstated his license the following September.

The State Bar reprimanded Phillips in 1994 after he entered a conditional plea of guilty to another charge of professional misconduct. The organization found he had failed to communicate properly with a client he represented in an accident claim.

Phillips also received letters of reprimand involving a variety of matters in 2008, 2009 and 2012.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Find her on Twitter: @CarriGeer.

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