The Utah State Bar has the authority to investigate allegations of professional misconduct against Sen. Lorin Pace, R-Salt Lake, the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
The office of the bar counsel will conduct a public disciplinary hearing within the next two months to investigate allegations against Pace, bar officials said Wednesday.Dan Berman, Pace's attorney, told the Deseret News that he is considering appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court the issue of a state agency's power to regulate an attorney's conduct in federal court. He believes the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over attorneys practicing in federal court.
"The issue is significant. It applies to the principle of federal power versus the power of a state agency - an issue that is larger than this case," Berman said.
Pace filed suit in the U.S. District Court for Utah against the state bar alleging that the counts filed against him by the bar should never have been filed.
In his suit, Pace said that the action by the bar "unreasonably interferes with and conflicts with and is pre-empted by the federal power."
The bar complaint against Pace, issued Oct. 23, makes three assertions:
-That Pace filed a civil lawsuit against R. Kent Moon, director of the Small Business Administration, for the sole purpose of harassing Moon.
-That Pace filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Moon on behalf of a Denver businessman, even though Moon had nothing to do with the businessman's dealings with the SBA.
-That Pace filed bankruptcies for Park and Sybil Larson for the purpose of delaying foreclosure actions on the Larsons' property. The Larsons are former owners of Larson Ford Motor Co. in Murray.
Pace claims that the two counts involving the federal court matters should never have been filed against him and that a bankruptcy petition involved in one of the cases is still pending.
He further contends that the bar action is an attempt to penalize him for a vigorous defense of his clients, something that lawyers are supposed to do in the adversary system of justice under the U.S. Constitution.
Pace said he has done nothing except represent a client to the best of his ability.
In response to allegations that he brought a civil action maliciously against Moon, Pace said he brought an action against the SBA regional director because he believed the evidence would show that the SBA allowed $2.1 million of inventory to be lost through incompetence. He believes that the SBA employees tried to bring the matter to their superiors' attention, but the superiors ignored it.
The Denver businessman's suit was filed by Pace against Moon because statute requires that the administrator of the SBA be named in the suit to obtain jurisdiction.
A formal complaint begins a process of determining whether to disbar an attorney accused of violating bar regulations. The result could range from dismissal of the accusation to a number of sanctions, including public reprimand, probation, suspension or disbarment.
Pace has practiced law in Utah for 26 years and has served in the Legislature for 11 consecutive terms, 22 years as a member of the Utah House of Representatives.