[Story updated Wednesday afternoon following receipt of documents from the office of Legal Ethics Counsel detailing allegations of wrongdoing and a response from Kim Gardner's legal team.]
ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- An investigation by the state's Chief Disciplinary Counsel has found probable cause that St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner committed professional misconduct, after complaints made by the legal team representing former Governor Eric Greitens.
A state website published Tuesday Gardner’s name in relation to a pending disciplinary hearing, that indicates she is the subject of an alleged ethical violation. The Circuit Attorney will likely face a disciplinary panel to weigh the allegations and make a finding. Ultimately punishment would be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court and could range from an admonishment to suspension or revocation of her law license.
Wednesday, News 4 obtained documents outlining the nature of the alleged ethical violations against Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner. In a 73 page document, Chief Disciplinary Counsel Alan Pratzel outlined numerous instances of violation of Missouri’s Rules governing lawyers, related to her conduct during the prosecution of then-Governor Eric Greitens.
“The allegations here are clearly very serious,” said John Ammann, Professor Emeritus of St. Louis University School if Law. He tells News 4, allegations like these are scary for any lawyer.
Gardner hired a private investigator for the Greitens case, William Tisaby, who has since been charged with perjury and tampering with evidence, much of which had to do with whether he properly turned over notes and other information related to his investigation of the case.
But these latest allegations say Gardner herself made false statements or failed to correct false statements, that she misrepresented or concealed facts from the courts and from the defense, and that she prejudiced the administration of justice by "jeopardizing the successful prosecution of the defendant because of her misconduct."
“The ethical rules are in place for a good reason and that is because attorneys work for the public in the public trust,” Ammann said.
But what's more: Ammann notes Gardner is also alleged to have made false statements to the counsel investigating her.
“That is troublesome, because in a lot of these cases the thing that puts it over the line is not coming clean with the disciplinary counsel,” he said.
In conclusion, the ethics investigation found “that probable cause exists to believe that Respondent (Gardner) is guilty of professional misconduct."
In a near 41 page answer to the allegations, however, Circuit Attorney Gardner denies all of the allegations. Attorney Michael Downey states that Gardner should not be sanctioned for the conduct, for a variety of reasons.
In her filing, Downey wrote that the Ethics Investigation was "another attempt by her political enemies--largely from outside St. Louis--to remove her and thwart the systemic reforms she champions."
Downey states that Gardner should not be sanctioned for the conduct, for a variety of reasons.
If minor mistakes were made, Gardner's filing reads, "they were not deliberate, they did not undermine justice and they did not deny the defendant a fair trial."
“You can tell that it’s a serious matter to her and her very good ethics counsel is giving her good representation,” Ammann said.
In documents provided to News 4, we also learned Gardner had asked for the proceedings to be sealed, or not made public, but that request was denied.
Tuesday, Gardner's office released the following statement in response to the allegations, saying, "As the Circuit Attorney has repeatedly proven time after time, she has acted in full accordance with the law during the investigation into former Governor Greitens. Despite several investigations attempting to uncover illegal wrongdoing by her office in this case, none has ever been found. We are confident that a full review of the facts will show that the Circuit Attorney has not violated the ethical standards of the State of Missouri.”
A lawyer from Greitens former legal team told News 4 he had no comment. News 4 also reached out to a spokesperson for Greitens, but we have not heard back. St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones also declined to comment on the case.
News 4 reached out for more response from the Circuit Attorney. Specifically, we are asking whether or not taxpayers will pay for her defense. The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel is funded by attorneys' fees.
Attorneys representing former Governor Greitens filed complaints against Gardner's law license shortly after the conclusion of the criminal case back in 2018.
Then-state representative Paul Curtman also filed a bar complaint, but recently told News 4 he had been informed his complaint was not moving forward. Allegations from the Greitens team claim Gardner had an ethical obligation to correct the record during a deposition of private investigator William Tisaby. Gardner hired Tisaby who conducted interviews with the woman at the center of the invasion of privacy charge against Greitens.
Tisaby has since been charged with six counts of perjury and one count of tampering with evidence, after a special prosecutor found Tisaby had lied under oath. But Gardner was with Tisaby in those instances and allegations indicated she had a professional responsibility to ensure that Tisaby's statements were correct. She has claimed she was not representing Tisaby and therefore did not have to do so.
ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- The criminal case against a private investigator hired by the St. Lo…
Attorney Alan Pratzel is the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the state and his office is the entity in charge of investigating complaints against lawyers in Missouri. It is an agency of the Missouri Supreme Court, funded by lawyers’ dues, not taxpayer funds, and is separate from The Missouri Bar.
"Complaints do happen," said Peter Joy, Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law. He told News 4, on average, a lawyer may be the subject of three to five complaints. "If they investigate and find no basis for it, that's the end of it," Joy said of the disciplinary process in Missouri.
For example, in 2018, the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel received 1,748 complaints and opened 685 formal investigations. Though disciplinary actions may be taken in another year, in 2018, investigations resulted in 16 lawyers being disbarred, 23 being suspended, and 92 receiving written admonitions, among other outcomes.
ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she did nothing wrong du…
As for why it took so long for action, Joy says the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel often doesn't want to interfere with elections (Gardner was re-elected in 2020) or any on-going criminal investigations. The special prosecutor investigating Tisaby had intimated Gardner herself could be subject to the criminal investigation, but sources tell News 4 that the statute of limitations for any charges on Gardner passed in March this year.
News 4 has learned that William Don Tisaby has been charged, though the exact nature of the charges is unclear at this time.
Either way, generally speaking, Joy says a lawyer never wants to have a complaint taken even one step further.
"I think it’s safe to say that lawyers uniformly don't want to be in that position and you certainly don't want to be in the position of losing your ability to have a livelihood as a lawyer, which would happen if you get a suspension or disbarred." Joy said.