AG McDaniel's Conflict of Interest

By Bill Smith on 11:42 AM

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ARRA News Service: Jason Tolbert on the Tobert Report today ends year 2009 reporting on an Arkansas version of "Chicago style" politics. In summary, we have an elected constitutional officer who is Arkansas Chief Law enforcement officer advocating for and paying for a defeat of constitutional amendment in the past and now espousing that he can defend the very same amendment in a court case now challenging the amendment passed by the citizen's of Arkansas. And we thought their was no shame in Little Rock when Bill Clinton was AG. Below Jason explains about the latest "Dustin dust-up":

After seeing this photograph from the Arkansas Times of Attorney General Dustin McDaniel at a fundraiser for Arkansas Families First, the group formed to oppose Initiated Act 1, I decided to go down to the Arkansas Ethics Commission on my lunch break and take a look at their financial disclosure statements. My hunch was right.

The McDaniel Leadership PAC contributed $1,000 on October 28, 2008 to support Arkansas Families First in their campaign against Initiated Act 1. According to the PAC’s filing with the Arkansas Secretary of State, Dustin McDaniel serves as chairman of this PAC. (As a side note, fellow blogger Blake Rutherford serves as the treasurer.)

This is significant because as the Attorney General for Arkansas, McDaniel’s office now serves as the defense attorney in representing the state of Arkansas against the ACLU’s court challenge of Initiated Act 1. McDaniel’s Chief Deputy Attorney General Justin Allen told the Associated Press yesterday that his office will still be the ones defending the lawsuit.

I cannot help but wonder how someone who has contributed financially for a measure’s defeat can now be the advocate for the people of Arkansas in defense of that passed measure. I am certainly not a lawyer but referring to a borrowed copy of Howard Brill’s “Arkansas Professional and Judicial Ethics,” this appears to be a violation of Rule 1.7 defining a conflict of interest. The rule states “A concurrent conflict of interest exists if …. there is a significant risk that the representation of one of more clients will be materially limited … by a personal interest of the lawyer.”

Is this circumstance not a clear example of this definition? The rule goes on to discuss several requirements for a lawyer to overcome this conflict including if “each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing.” The clients in this case would be a people of Arkansas, particularly the 586,248 Arkansans who voted for the Act. I am not sure how McDaniel is going to pull that one off.

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