Disciplinary hearing for DA Suzanne Valdez will be in person, panel says

photo by: Contributed

A screenshot of a pre-hearing Zoom conference on Sept. 19, 2023, in connection with an ethics complaint filed against Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez. From left, Stacy Ortega, hearing panel member; Krystal Vokins, counsel to the Kansas Board For Discipline of Attorneys; Gaye Tibbets, hearing panel member; Sylvia Penner, hearing panel member; Stephen Angermayer, counsel to Valdez; Kimberly Bonifas, special prosecutor; and Robin Schuyler, court reporter.

The October disciplinary hearing for Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez will be in person and witnesses will be sequestered, a panel for the Kansas Board For Discipline of Attorneys has ruled.

Going into the panel’s pre-hearing conference for Valdez, the question was open whether Valdez’s disciplinary hearing on Oct. 12-13 would be in person or via Zoom. That question was resolved Tuesday. The in-person hearing will take place in Topeka starting at 9:30 a.m. both days, and witnesses will not be permitted in the hearing unless they are being questioned. One out-of-state witness for the prosecutor, former Deputy Disciplinary Administrator Deborah Hughes, will be allowed to participate via Zoom.

Special Prosecutor Kimberly Bonifas told the panel Tuesday that she was open to the hearing being in person or via Zoom, and Valdez’s attorney, Stephen Angermayer, requested an in-person hearing, which the panel also preferred.

Bonifas has alleged in her formal complaint, filed Aug. 14, that Valdez violated four parts of the state code governing attorney conduct: making a statement that the lawyer knows to be false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity concerning the qualifications or integrity of a judge; engaging in undignified or discourteous conduct degrading to a tribunal; engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice; and engaging in any other conduct that adversely reflects on the lawyer’s fitness to practice law.

Another question, which is still open, is whether the board’s attorney, Krystal Vokins, will be recused. Valdez’s attorney has requested that Vokins be recused due to a conflict of interest — Valdez claims that one of her former employees, Alice Walker, who is now a co-worker of Vokins’, is Vokins’ best friend, as the Journal-World has reported. Bonifas has argued against the recusal, claiming that the two are not best friends and that Vokins has no conflict based on their work relationship. The panel will determine the issue ahead of the October hearing.


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