Attorney Misconduct, Legal Ethics, Politics

Prominent Conservative Commentator’s Attorney Disbarred

A while back, someone wrote a book accusing a prominent former Karl Rove aide and conservative commentator of being a scheming, intellectually dishonest shell of a person, with nothing more to commend her than her beauty-queen good looks.

Once you recover from the shock, the wrinkle in this kerfuffle is that the book was written by her long-time friend and attorney, and draws upon what he learned over his years of representing the woman in various legal scrapes from divorce to criminal activity.

If you think writing a book divulging the confidences of a former client sounds suspect, well, the Indiana Supreme Court agrees with you…

UPDATE (1/7/14): Dee Dee Benkie reached out to us and noted that she never spoke to the Indiana Supreme Court, so the details in its decision represent only the former attorney’s side of the story and Benkie was not able to go on the record to defend herself.

Dee Dee Benkie served in the Bush White House as a Special Assistant to Karl Rove and as Co-Chair of the RNC Finance Committee. Previously, she served as Chair of the National Young Republicans, the proving ground for conservative operatives. She appears regularly on TV saying stuff like “Obama is so Un-American,” and alleging that voter fraud is rampant when her own administration investigated and debunked the claim. That sort of charming stuff.

Joseph Stork Smith was Benkie’s friend and attorney for years. Right up until he wrote Rove-Ing Her Way to the White House: Machiavelli’s Sexy Twin Sister, which is apparently out of print.

Yesterday, the Indiana Supreme Court unanimously disbarred Smith for the impropriety cocktail of divulging client confidences for fun and profit, making false statements, and representing Benkie in the first place despite conflicts of interest.

Respondent admits that portions of the book contain information about events involving his representation of FC. The book describes several criminal cases against FC [Benkie] in which Respondent represented FC. Respondent revealed such details as his negotiations regarding bail and plea agreements, conversations with a police detective, conversations with FC pertaining to the charges and her incarceration, FC’s mental and physical state, the source of funds for restitution, discussions about his fees, and his personal thoughts about FC and about the matters

Well, nothing is more American than joining the ranks of the largest prison population in the world.

Laughably, Smith offered a defense of selling out his client’s confidences:

Respondent asserts that FC gave her consent to the disclosures of confidences when she said, in response to his statement that he might write a book about her, “That is a great idea! Write a book and make me famous!”

While his testimony that Dee Dee Benkie was narcissistic and fame-obsessed is compelling, the justices recognized that Benkie probably wasn’t saying, “That is a great idea! Write a scathing tell-all that paints me as Machiavellian!”

Several of Smith’s claims were, as one might expect of a hatchet job, unevidenced false assertions, which didn’t amuse the Indiana Supreme Court either.

How did Smith and Benkie go from besties to enemies? The answer, as always, revolves around money:

From 1990 through 2001, Respondent represented FC on numerous legal matters and maintained a personal relationship with her. During this period, Respondent advanced money, made personal loans, permitted his credit card to be used, and provided personal assistance to FC. Although FC owed Respondent legal fees, he continued to lend her additional funds and to provide additional services. Respondent grew increasingly frustrated with FC over her lack of payments but continued to represent her in order to increase his opportunity to be repaid.

Running up huge bills and not repaying them? I understand why Benkie feels she’s the expert on all things quintessentially American.

This might as well be a bar exam fact pattern of how not to run a practice. Increasingly dependent on Benkie’s success to pay back his substantial loans, Smith was not only unable to properly represent her given the conflict, but the mounting debt also set the stage for his eventual betrayal.

Still Benkie likes him better than Obama.

The full opinion from the Indiana Supreme Court is reproduced on the next page….

(hidden for your protection)

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