A Carmel, Indiana lawyer thought he had a great story to write. So lawyer (now former lawyer) Joseph Stork Smith wrote a book about Dee Dee Benkie, a former aide to President George W. Bush. The 2010 book, Rove-ing Her Way to the White House: Machiavelli’s Sexy Twin Sister, was not a best seller, but is was sold on Amazon.com.
The problem is that Ms. Benkie, now a Fox commentator and Republican strategist, was Mr. Smith's client. Apparently for a time she also was involved in a personal relationship with Mr. Smith. But that relationship ended -- apparently very badly from Mr. Smith's perspective. So he wrote the book detailing what he perceived as Ms Benkie's dirty laundry. Cue Don Henley and Dirty Laundry.
Smith's book details Ms. Benkie's asserted criminal background and claims that she should never have been given clearance to work at the White House. The book description on the Better World Books website states: "Rove-ing Her Way to the White House, demonstrates that it was clearly possible to lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate others to gain full security clearance in the White House." The description promises revelations of "sex, criminality, not following the Golden Rule, and, most importantly, jeopardizing the security of the United States of America."
That same description claims that the author had a "unique perspective" which gave him knowledge to write the book.
Damn right he did. He was her lawyer !
Confidentiality is at the core of the attorney-client relationship. It is taken seriously by lawyers, the legal profession and certainly by the Indiana Supreme Court, which is in charge of enforcing those rules and disciplining lawyers in the Hoosier state.
Those same Rules of Professional Responsibility also prohibit lawyers from having a sexual relationships with their clients. There is an exception where the relationship pre-existed the representation, so you can represent your spouse. But if a relationship develops during the representation, the lawyer must withdraw (no pun intended - well, maybe a little pun intended) from the representation before he/she "does the deed" with what should now be a former client.
Apparently Mr. Smith didn't pay any attention to that rule, either.
In disbarring Mr. Smith, the Supreme Court did not mince any words or hide its disgust. It was a tour-de-force of clear to-the-point writing. The Court opinion stated:
"In the book, Respondent revealed personal and sensitive information about [the former client] that was obtained in confidence as her attorney, and its revelation had the potential of causing her public embarrassment and other injury, such as impairment of her employment opportunities. . . . Respondent's selfish motivation in deliberately attempting to reveal this confidential information to a wide audience for monetary gain, his false statements in the book and in this disciplinary matter, and his lack of any remorse lead us to conclude that that disbarment is appropriate for Respondent's misconduct."
Cue Queen - Another One Bites the Dust.
Note to Indiana Supreme Court: My legal thriller, Stars Fall, is entirely fiction.
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