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Archive for Saturday, December 10, 2005

Supreme Court disbars Republican candidate for lieutenant governor

Justices question attorney’s competence

December 10, 2005

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— A Republican candidate for lieutenant governor who accused court officials of misconduct and other attorneys of participating in illegal baby trafficking lost his law license Friday.

The Kansas Supreme Court disbarred Bret D. Landrith, of Topeka, citing his comments about officials and other attorneys, which it said he had failed to support with "even an iota" of evidence. The court also questioned his competence.

Landrith said during an interview that he's been singled out for attempting to protect the rights of his clients. His running mate, GOP gubernatorial candidate Dennis Hawver, an Ozawkie attorney, promised to keep Landrith on his ticket for the August 2006 primary.

"None of the disciplinary complaints against Bret were brought by his clients. His clients are 100 percent behind him," Hawver said. "He's looking into areas - events here in Kansas - that people don't want him to look into."

The Supreme Court took a much dimmer view of Landrith's conduct, saying he'd continued his improper conduct up until the justices heard his case in October.

"Whether this is due to ignorance or stubbornness, the public must be protected from his further practice," the court wrote in its opinion.

Hawver has already promised that if he's elected next year, he'll resign in May 2008, when he turns 65, to sail the South Pacific, leaving state government to Landrith. In the GOP primary, Hawver, the 2002 Libertarian Party nominee, faces state Sen. Jim Barnett, of Emporia; former House Speaker Robin Jennison, of Healy, and Richard Rodewald, of Lawrence, a retired automotive engineer.

Complaints were filed against Landrith by judges and other court personnel over his handling of litigation for two clients.

One client was contesting the adoption of his infant son. In 2002, a judge determined that the client was an unfit parent and terminated his parental rights. Landrith appealed that decision to the state Court of Appeals.

In that litigation, the Supreme Court said, Landrith accused district court employees of withholding and altering documents.

Later, when Landrith faced disciplinary charges, he accused the adoptive couple's attorney and others - including the state's disciplinary administrator - of illegally selling babies. The Supreme Court quoted him as claiming the trafficking depends "upon the participation of some officials in the Kansas judicial branch."

But Hawver said: "I do not believe he has committed any sort of ethical violations. I believe he has simply stood up against the powers that be."

The second complaint involved Landrith's representation of a Topeka resident who lost a janitorial contract with the city and unsuccessfully fought the condemnation of a house. The client, who is black, later accused the city of discrimination and corruption.

Landrith took those issues to federal court, but his litigation was dismissed. One federal magistrate said he was troubled by Landrith's "apparent incompetence."

"Disbarment is generally appropriate when a lawyer's course of conduct demonstrates that he or she does not understand the most fundamental legal doctrines or procedures, and the lawyer's conduct causes injury or potential injury to a client," the Supreme Court said in its opinion.

When he faced disciplinary action, Landrith sued the disciplinary administrator, three Court of Appeals judges, a state district judge, a district court employee, two city employees and Supreme Court Justice Marla Luckert. He later accused Chief Justice Kay McFarland of obstructing justice.

His lawsuit was dismissed last year, and neither Luckert nor McFarland participated in Friday's decision.

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