The director of Kansas’ state attorney ethics division, Stan Hazlett, is facing serious charges of his own, basically that he was “dishonest,” “unfair,”and broke the rules governing discipline of attorneys.While similar charges against Hazlett are part of the Phill Kline defense (discussed below), scathing allegations against Hazlett were filed in a May 2012 legal brief (that fills a three-inch deep binder) by Alma attorney, Keen Umbehr. Umbehr says he has been victimized by Hazlett,
who pressed for disciplinary action against Umbehr without having received the required decision from a 3-person disciplinary review panel that there was “probable cause” that ethical violations were committed.
Umbehr was the subject of a complaint to Hazlett initiated by the director of the state department of women’ corrections. Umbehr had shown the temerity to expose the scandal of sex between guards and inmates, including drugs and a procured abortion.
The resulting explosive Topeka Capital Journal newspaper series on conditions inside the women’s prison ran in October 2009. It was written by reporter Tim Carpenter, who accompanied Umbehr when meeting with jailed clients. The scandal triggered federal investigations that continue today.
Umbehr was threatened with loss of his law license for not volunteering that Carpenter was a reporter. After two years, it was found that he had not violated any professional ethics.
Umbehr’s filing shows how Hazlett stonewalled verifying whether the ethics charges were being handled according to the rules. Umbehr alleges the initial required review panel never even convened and that Hazlett lied repeatedly about it. Umbehr’s action against Hazlett now proceeds to a panel of the state Supreme Court.
As relates to former AG Phill Kline’s protracted case, Kline’s attorney, Tom Condit issued a demand letter to Hazlett Nov, 21, for additional documentation on the working of Hazlett’s office in light of the derogatory comments tweeted by an appellate law clerk (see post here). Condit’s letter draws attention to numerous failings by Hazlett, in pursuing Kline:
There are seemingly infinite ironies between the many failings and omissions of your [Hazlett] office and …the standard of absolute perfection required of all of Mr. Kline’s acts and communications.”
Condit notes that— as in the Umbehr case— Hazlett failed to secure a written “probable cause” finding for Kline. When asked for the report, Hazlett asserted that review panel results were “oral.” This is the same excuse Hazlett gave Umbehr, although the Rules clearly state that the panel must commit their findings to the record.
Also noteworthy in the Kline case, is that Hazlett’s own investigators did not find Kline guilty. And Hazlett ignored the “not guilty” findings of a special inquisition of Kline in 2007 and the ruling of Wichita Judge Owens on related matters.
So what compelled Hazlett to take the path he did with Kline? The results of the legal complaint filed by attorney Umbehr may verify whether Stan Hazlett has been violating the very ethics he is in charge of enforcing.