By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: A Las Vegas attorney running for attorney general as a Republican against Democrat incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, and who called for a State Bar investigation into her release of a letter to the press about a potential legal challenge to the federal health care law, is now himself the subject of a bar inquiry.
Attorney Jacob Haffer called the inquiry ridiculous.
“It just shows the type of protection these incumbents have,” he said.
Because Hafter has formally requested a review of Masto’s actions, however, the question he has raised will be reviewed, a State Bar spokesman confirmed today.
Phil Pattee, assistant bar counsel and media contact for the State Bar, also acknowledged an investigation is under way regarding Hafter, but said he could offer no further comment, citing confidentiality rules. Because Hafter in an April 13 letter formally asked for a review of Masto’s conduct, that too will be reviewed, he said.
“It will be treated as a complaint,” Pattee said. “We will look into it.”
In a press release issued April 7, Hafter called for a State Bar investigation into Masto after she released a March 30 letter to the media citing her reasons for rejecting a request by Gov. Jim Gibbons to sue the federal government over the new health care law.
Hafter said Gibbons had not authorized the release of the letter, and suggested Masto had violated attorney-client privilege by doing so.
Masto spokeswoman Edie Cartwright said the letter was a response to Gibbons as to why Nevada should not pursue a lawsuit and was not a legal analysis subject to attorney-client privilege.
Cartwright said she had no comment on any complaint that may be before the State Bar.
Since then Gibbons has decided to pursue a legal challenge independently of the attorney general’s office by joining in a Florida challenge to the health care law.
Hafter, in a discussion of a health care lawsuit on a statewide conference call with invited media moderated by the Nevada News Bureau last week, said he had been told an inquiry into Masto’s conduct had been initiated by the State Bar.
But in an April 13 letter to State Bar General Counsel David Clark, Hafter said he subsequently learned there was no Masto investigation, but there was one under way against himself.
In his letter, Hafter said: “To date, it has come to my attention that the State Bar of Nevada has failed to open an investigation into such actions by Ms. Masto; rather, the Bar, in an action that is nothing more than an attempt to be partisan intimidation, has opened an investigation against me related to the press release which my campaign sent out discussing Ms. Masto’s alleged misconduct and my conversation with you, alleging a violation of Rule 8.1 and 8.4.”
In a telephone interview, Hafter said he does not yet know the details of what the alleged violations against him entail. He said Rule 8.1 involves making a material mistake to the bar regarding a disciplinary proceeding. Rule 8.4 is a general misconduct rule.
In his April 13 letter Hafter said: “Mr. Clark, as a member of the Bar of this Great State of Nevada, and a member of the Southern Nevada Disciplinary Board, I find your office’s actions deplorable.
“It is no wonder why the public has no confidence in the morality and ethics of lawyers,” he said.
Hafter said his April 7 press release was political speech protected by the First Amendment.
“To now, personally, face an investigation of an ethic’s violation from the Bar as a result of my speech is particularly concerning,” he said.