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State Bar investigation adds to Stringer’s woes

David Stringer (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

David Stringer (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

The State Bar of Arizona has opened a preliminary investigation into Rep. David Stringer regarding his application to practice law in the state.

The investigation is on top of two ethics complaints filed by his colleagues this week and calls for his resignation from Gov. Doug Ducey amid reports of racially charged statements he’s made and news of an indictment on sex offenses 35 years ago.

Stringer, a Prescott Republican was admitted to the Bar in 2004 and was required to disclose any convictions to the state Supreme Court’s Committee on Character and Fitness. There is no word if Stringer did disclose his 1983 indictment on multiple sex charge.

Rick DeBruhl, the State Bar’s spokesman could not disclose what rules of personal conduct Stringer may be accused of violating, or when the investigation began – before or after New Times’ bombshell story, but preliminary investigations tend to not take very long.

“The majority of our investigations are resolved within 30 days,” DeBruhl said.

He said the Bar received more than 3,000 complaints/inquiries against attorneys in 2018, but none are against Stringer. “Stringer has no other public documents related to him other than this current investigation,” DeBruhl said.

That means any dismissed complaints filed against him would be removed from public record after six months. DeBruhl told the Arizona Mirror more than 600 of the 3,000 complaints resulted in formal investigations.

If the Bar finds there is “clear and convincing evidence of a rules violation,” the preliminary investigation would turn into a formal one which could last anywhere from three to 18 months depending on the circumstance. Or, DeBruhl said, “such evidence could be developed and the rule violation would then warrant the imposition of the disciplinary sanction.”

DeBruhl said the only way the investigation would become public record is if it gets dismissed, which would stay public for six months, by court rule. Or “if it goes to probable cause, like a grand jury, then it becomes a public document,” he said.

To practice law in the state, all hopeful Arizona attorneys are expected to disclose expunged records to the Arizona Supreme Court, which does the actual vetting of attorneys, and they have to go through the Committee on Character and Fitness. The committee’s rules state no applicant will be recommended for admission to the practice of law in Arizona by the committee unless the committee is satisfied that an applicant is at least 21 years old and is of good moral character, among other qualifications.

Alicia Moffatt, spokeswoman for the Arizona Supreme Court, said court rules make Stringer’s application, or that of any other attorney, confidential.

Stringer told the Daily Independent he did disclose the charges, and the website reported he underwent the regular “character and fitness investigations, which meant disclosing not just convictions, but arrests themselves.”

Court spokesman Aaron Nash told New Times that “there is a presumption that conviction of a misdemeanor involving a serious crime or any felony will prevent admission, but that is not always the case.

In 2005, an applicant convicted of attempted first-degree murder applied and was eventually accepted to practice law in Arizona. Lee Keller King passed the state bar exam and applied for admission to the State Bar of Arizona. The Bar denied King admission at first, but when he applied six months later, the Bar accepted his application. However, the Arizona Supreme Court has the final say on all attorney applicants and ultimately denied his admission 4-1. King was an attorney in Texas for 10 years before transferring to Arizona.

Stringer did not receive the same treatment as King, otherwise his application would have gone to the Supreme Court, and it did not.

Stringer could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts, and hurried off the floor as the House adjourned for the day.

Stringer told Capitol Media Services on Jan. 25 he was never convicted of a crime. Stringer acknowledged to Capitol Media Services that he accepted a plea bargain in which

prosecutors offered him something called “probation before judgment” on two misdemeanors. That is not a conviction, with the records expunged after the probationary period ended.

On Jan. 30, Speaker Rusty Bowers stripped Stringer of his membership on the House Government Committee.

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Tags: rick debruhl, Arizona Supreme Court, David Stringer, Committee on Character and Fitness, Rusty Bowers, State Bar of Arizona, Aaron Nash