The District of Columbia’s Office of Bar Counsel is Corrupt

The District of Columbia’s Office of Bar Counsel is Corrupt

By John Hnatio

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In our society many people already have a low opinion of lawyers.  It’s like the old joke, “What’s the difference between a grouper and an attorney?  Well, one’s a grubbing, bottom eating, slimy animal and the other’s a fish.”  Well I’m here to tell that they are absolutely wrong!  It’s actually much worse than that.

Fred RodellJust like taxes, death and burial lawyers are a fixture of American society.  They are the people we turn to when we’ve been caught in a perceived wrong.  We turn to attorneys to write our wills, handle corporate mergers and keep our federal agencies on the straight and narrow.  We turn to attorneys to prosecute murderers, rapists and child molesters to keep us safe.  When you stop to think about it the pervasive and powerful role lawyers play in our lives is astounding.

To those of you (mostly lawyers) who think that I am unfairly picking on a noble profession, I will admit upfront that there are many good attorneys out there with strong moral compasses.  I know some of them and they are the finest people you would ever want to meet.  By the same token, however, it’s the few bad apples in the barrel that can cause the rest to rot.  So, if you don’t throw out the bad apples you can expect to get exactly what you deserve- a bigger bunch of rotten apples.

Now one of the big advantages that attorneys have over the rest of us is that they have successfully insulated themselves from the same system of justice that applies to everybody else.  This alternative system of justice is most commonly referred to as the rules of professional conduct for practicing attorneys.  In this very special system, built by attorneys for attorneys, lawyers get to be their own judges, jury and exonerators.  In other words, the fox is set loose so that he run around the coop and eat all of the chickens he wants.

Now, in the District of Columbia where the vast majority of attorneys work for the federal government, the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility and the D.C. Office on Bar Counsel have the authority to determine, completely on their own volition, what they will listen to and what they won’t.  Theoretically they are accountable to the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals.  But in reality the Chief Judge has much more important things to do than worry about the integrity of this special system of justice for attorneys only.

So, you don’t believe it.  Just another disgruntled crazy man complaining after he didn’t get his way.  Maybe.  You be the judge.

This story begins in the fall of 2012 when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was caught misappropriating the intellectual property owned by a small company.  The FDA ended up driving the little company out of business by duplicating their products and giving them away for free.  Just recently the Acting Commissioner of the FDA, Stephen Ostroff, was finally forced to concede that the FDA was guilty of all of the claims of misconduct.  But back in the day, when the little company first complained that their ideas and trade secrets were being stolen by the FDA, the matter was referred to the Chief Counsel of guess who? Yes, the FDA.  The first fox is in the chicken coop.

The FDA Chief Counsel and her staff assured the little company that they would do “an objective and fair review” of the situation.  But as soon as the Chief Counsel found out that the FDA employees involved may have intentionally broken the law and the little company had the evidence to prove it, she turned their “fair and objective review” into a full blown legal defense of the FDA wrongdoers.  As the FDA Chief Counsel made her transition from the role of mediator to the role of criminal defense attorney for the FDA, the little company was left in the dark still naively believing that their complaints were being fairly and objectively assessed by the government attorneys involved.  The chickens are about to become the fox’s lunch.

About five months into the bogus process, when the little business was told by the FDA Chief Counsel’s staff that they really needed to get an attorney (that the FDA already knew the little business couldn’t afford to hire because the FDA had already forced them out of business), the small company finally figured out what was really going on.  Left with no other choice, the company filed a complaint with the Small Business Administration (SBA).  As things turned out the SBA was nothing but a politically and ethically toothless tiger scared of its own shadow.  The SBA was terrified to confront a cabinet level agency like the Department of Health and Human Services which owns the FDA.  The best SBA could do to get rid of the political hot potato was to get the matter bumped up the chain of command to the Office of General Counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for, and I quote “an independent, fair and objective review.”  There are now two foxes in the chicken coop.

Andrew NapolitanoOf course, the only result of this bit of bureaucratic deception by the SBA was that now both the FDA and HHS attorneys involved were able to team up on the little company to defend their own criminal wrongdoing. The two FDA and HHS attorney who spearheaded the cover-up for the U.S. Government proceeded to ignore the overwhelming evidence of procurement and procurement integrity violations and fraud throughout the FDA and their contractors as they intentionally obstructed justice.  The attorneys who were supposed to do “an objective and fair review” refused to consider critical evidence offered to them, extended lawyer-client privilege to the FDA employees involved in the wrongdoing to protect them, and violated government’s own ethics laws as they worked overtime to cover the situation up.  To put the frosting on the cake, the three attorneys blew up a bureaucratic smoke screen by issuing their own report alleging that the little company refused to cooperate, none of the little company’s claims were true and that no laws were broken. So, the U.S. Government attorneys were allowed to simply proclaim their own innocence and then slither away into the bureaucratic shadows. The two foxes are now licking their chops at the thought of a delicious chicken lunch.

Thinking that someone would have to help them, the little company complained to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The FBI asked the little company to gather all of the evidence and write a report.  What the FBI attorneys never expected what was coming–the most comprehensive report of its kind ever written chronicling the entire cover-up with all of the evidence to prove it.  The FBI didn’t realize that one of the employees of the small company was a former investigator for the U.S. Government.  When the FBI attorneys saw the little company’s report, their first reaction was to do nothing and hope the issue would simply go away.  Why you ask?  Because the FBI is made up of mostly attorneys!  The poor little chickens.

Later, a senior FBI official tried to justify their inaction stating that Jethrothe SBA and HHS had already told the little company that their claims were not substantiated.  The FBI intoned to their congressional masters, So, What’s the big deal?, when they were asked why the agency wasn’t doing its job. The FBI attorneys were simply allowed to brush the dirty garbage under the rug saying, “Due to competing priories and limited resources the FBI is unable to address all of the intellectual property fraud schemes that target our citizens.”  So, the attorneys at the FBI once again allowed the guilty to simply proclaim their own innocence and slither away into the bureaucratic shadows.   And it’s not just the FDA, HHS, SBA, FBI and the congress.  Attorneys in the Offices of Inspector General at HHS and the Department of Justice did absolutely nothing either. Attorneys at GAO did nothing.  Attorneys at the Federal Trade Commission did nothing. The U.S. Attorney for the State of Maryland did nothing. It soon became clear that the entire system of justice was asleep at the wheel or possibly something even worse. The poor little chickens were now all alone with the two foxes and knew that they were about to die if they didn’t do something.

As the bureaucratic cover-up raged on, the little business didn’t give up.  When they saw that their own government was involved in a terrible miscarriage of justice they turned to the one organization that is supposed to police the ethical conduct of attorneys.  Yes, the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel.  The little company soon learned that attorneys everywhere are pretty much the same.  The attorneys at the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel immediately refused to investigate their attorney brethren at the FDA and DHHS. The company was not easily discouraged and they filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Professional Responsibility alleging that the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel was not doing its job.  The attorneys at the D.C. Office of Professional Responsibility, to get themselves off the hot seat, immediately referred the matter right back to the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel for a “re-review” in what turned out to be a never ending bureaucratic ping-pong game to see who would get tired and miss the ball first.  Of course, they knew they had a deeper bench than the little company.  Foxes are bigger and stronger than little chickens especially when they are cooped up.

As the U.S. Government cover-up continued unabated, the little
Parable of the persistent widowcompany wrote four letters to the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals telling him that his D.C. Office of Bar Counsel was corrupt. When the first two letters to the judge went completely unanswered the small company began a barrage of telephone calls to the Judge’s chambers asking why he was not answering their letters.  The judge finally responded to the barrage of telephone calls saying that, “…you may proceed on the well-founded assumption that the discipline authorities are acting with the utmost good faith in this matter.”

Still refusing to believe that the entire system was corrupted, the little company accepted the judge’s assurance and gave the Bar Counsel a copy of the detailed report they prepared at the behest of the FBI several months earlier.  The report included hundreds of exhibits that furnished overwhelming evidence of the attorneys’ violations of ethics rules and criminal conduct.  The Office of Bar Counsel then played a waiting game hoping that the little company would simply get tired and go away.  After all, this would give the foxes more time to eat their chicken lunch.

Several months later, thinking that the storm had blown past, the head of the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel sent a letter to the little company stating that the FDA and HHS attorneys who violated ethical rules and engaged in criminal conduct, “as representatives for their respective federal agencies, are entitled to defend their client’s interests.”

Reminiscent of the childhood rhyme, “All around the Mulberry Bush. The monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought ’twas all in fun. Pop goes the weasel!,” the small company has now taken another unexpected action by asking the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals to recuse himself and refer the possible corruption of the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel to the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to “independently” investigate the entire matter.  Yes, you are absolutely right, he’s only just another attorney.  So please stay tuned for updates on this never-ending story.  Sooner or later the little company is bound to run into an honest attorney!  Hold it, the chickens survived! Hey chickens may be smarter than we think.

The FBI report and exhibits presented to the D.C. Office of Bar Counsel and the Chief Judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, along with the small company’s affidavit of truth detailing their bureaucratic nightmare with the justice system, can be viewed in their entirety at the web site of the John Galt Program for Investigative Studies at

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