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Archive for Monday, February 26, 1996

RUMSEY PUSHES ON DESPITE ALLEGATIONS

February 26, 1996

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A formal hearing this summer will determine if Jim Rumsey, a candidate for district attorney, violated rules of professional conduct.

Attorney Jim Rumsey says a disciplinary committee's decision to formally charge him for his courtroom actions shouldn't derail his campaign for Douglas County district attorney.

During his Feb. 19 campaign announcement, Rumsey didn't mention a disciplinary investigation into a 1994 case. He said he expected the matter would have been discussed later in the campaign.

The formal complaint outlining allegations against Rumsey is expected to be filed in a few weeks.

"Since it was part of our campaign to begin with, it's not going to have an impact," Rumsey, a Lawrence Democrat, said. "It highlights that I'm vigorous in the courtroom and that I represent my clients vigorously."

About a year ago, a Lawrence woman complained to the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator about Rumsey's actions in a trial in which her son was a witness.

The woman alleged that while questioning her son, Rumsey disclosed confidential information from the boy's previous juvenile case. She also alleged Rumsey had a conflict of interest because an associate in his office had previously represented her son.

In mid-December, a review committee of the Kansas Board for Discipline told Rumsey it had found probable cause "to believe that you have violated the standards of professional conduct or responsibility or your oath of office." The committee directed that formal charges be brought against him.

The state disciplinary panel will hold a public hearing on the allegations in July. The Kansas Supreme Court will decide what discipline to impose if a violation is found. That could range from censure to suspension, or disbarment.

Rumsey denied the allegations.

"I have never breached a confidentiality of a client," he said, adding that he obtained details of the boy's previous juvenile case through a court-ordered discovery process. There was no conflict of interest, he said, because he had had no previous involvement with the woman's son.

Rumsey has been punished in the past for his professional conduct.

In 1994, he was informally disciplined by the Supreme Court for a statement he made to the court about a former Lawrence police investigator.

"These things all occurred in the heat of the courtroom battle," Rumsey said. "These are the kinds of things a serious prosecutor has to face every time they walk into the courtroom. You are not afforded the protection of sitting behind your desk, turning out paperwork people won't see."

Attorneys in trouble

The Office of the Disciplinary Administrator receives between 700 and 800 complaints against Kansas attorneys each year.

Complaints are investigated by a committee of the Kansas Board of Discipline. If violations are found, the Kansas Supreme Court imposes sanctions

Between July 1, 1995, and Jan. 5, the Supreme Court ordered 19 informal admonitions, five public censures, 11 indefinite suspensions and six disbarments.

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