Three Hunton & Williams partners face an ethics complaint before the D.C. Bar after the release of e-mails saying they worked on an effort to undermine liberal activists.
The organization Stop the Chamber says it filed the complaint on Wednesday. Stop the Chamber, a critic of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was among the groups targeted by the security companies that Hunton & Williams worked with, according to e-mails.
The 14-page complaint (PDF) accuses the three Hunton & Williams lawyers of violating Rule 8.4 of the D.C. Rules of Professional Conduct. The rule prohibits misconduct including conduct “involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.”
The lawyers violated the rule, says the complaint, when they collaborated with the three security companies on a project to gather information on and to undercut the Chamber’s critics. In November, the e-mails say, the companies’ employees discussed covert ways to “discredit” the union-backed U.S. Chamber Watch, including the creation of a forged document and “fake insider personas.”
Hunton & Williams has declined to comment on the more than 71,000 e-mails, which hackers took after breaking into the servers of a potential Hunton & Williams subcontractor. A message left today with a firm spokeswoman was not immediately returned. The three lawyers targeted by the complaint are all partners in the firm’s Washington office: Robert Quackenboss, John Woods and Richard Wyatt Jr.
The bar complaint was signed by Kevin Zeese, a lawyer who works with Stop the Chamber and its affiliate Velvet Revolution. In May 2009, Zeese signed complaints accusing 12 former Bush administration lawyers of violating professional standards. Salon first reported last week that Zeese was planning to file a complaint against the Hunton & Williams lawyers.
D.C. Bar Counsel Wallace “Gene” Shipp Jr. declined any comment, citing bar confidentiality rules.