|Jennifer Paige Clark|
A four-year investigation of Alabama attorney Jennifer Paige Clark started because of an alleged rules violation that records show she did not commit. That calls the Alabama State Bar's motivations into question--and those questions are especially serious because Clark died on May 26, 2012, nine days after her license had been suspended on unfounded charges.
Our research shows that Clark did not violate the rule in question, and there is considerable debate in the legal community about whether the rule is appropriate. Among those taking a dim view of the rule is the American Bar Association.
The circumstances surrounding Jennifer Paige Clark's death--and the Alabama State Bar's role in it--become even more alarming when you consider the following:
* The state bar initiated an investigation on its own; it received no complaint against Clark from the general public, or her fellow bar members, at the outset. Bar rules allow it to start an investigation on its own. But I know from personal experience that the Alabama bar routinely takes no action on citizen complaints that involve clear-cut rules violations by member lawyers. For the bar to act on its own, with no complaint filed against Ms. Clark, is wildly out of character.
* The bar only knew of Clark's alleged violation because someone copied them on a letter she had written to two lawyers in Georgia. Who copied the bar on the letter? Jennifer Clark herself. What does that say about her mindset, given that intent usually is a factor in any investigation of alleged wrongdoing. Would Jennifer Paige Clark have copied the Alabama State Bar on a letter if she thought it was violating the rules of professional conduct? Of course not. Clark clearly did not think she was violating any rule, and our investigation shows she was correct about that.
* A letter from one bar official indicates Clark was being treated as guilty until proven innocent. Clark repeatedly asked the bar for an explanation of the allegations against her. I've found nothing in the record that shows she ever received such an explanation.
Clark was subjected to a disciplinary hearing on May 16, based on allegations that she had violated Rule 3.10 of the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct. The only apparent evidence was a letter that Clark had sent to the Alabama State Bar herself. The rule is titled "Threatening Prosecution," and here is what it says:
A lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal charges solely to obtain an advantage in a civil matter.
Rule 3.10 seems short and clear, but it is quite controversial in the legal field. Why is that? We will explain in an upcoming post, as part of our ongoing investigation into Jennifer Paige Clark's death. We also will provide proof that Ms. Clark did not violate the rule.
That leaves us with this troubling question: What was the Alabama State Bar's real agenda in going after Jennifer Paige Clark? Did bar officials essentially harass one of their members to death?
(To be continued)