Editor’s Note: This is a developing story, and this article will be updated with more information.
Rep. Ken Buck has been asked to respond to questions by the Colorado Supreme Court Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel involving allegations of misconduct for his alleged involvement in falsifying election results.
In May, ProgressNow, a “multi-issue progressive advocacy organization,” sent a letter to the OARC calling for Buck’s license to practice law to be revoked in Colorado and requested an inquiry by the U.S. House Ethics Committee, according to a May press release.
“In a recorded conversation, Buck pressured a local party official to falsify election results to be submitted to the state under penalty of perjury,” the May press release states. “District Court Chief Judge Michael Martinez ruled that Buck’s attempts to induce a party volunteer to submit a false affidavit to the Colorado Secretary of State were in violation of Colorado law.”
“We’re pleased to see that the Office of Attorney Regulation is investigating this clear case of serious misconduct by Congressman Buck,” said Alan Franklin of ProgressNow Colorado, filer of the original complaint. “The Republican volunteer whom Buck demanded commit this crime knew what he was being asked to do was wrong, and as a licensed attorney and a former prosecutor Buck has a higher obligation to not engage in such deception.”
Franklin was quoted in the June release saying that Buck knowingly submitted a false affidavit to the state in order to qualify a candidate for election “is not just a crime, it’s a breach of integrity that disqualifies Buck from further service: to Colorado Republicans as chairman, or the people of Colorado in Congress.”
Further, the May release alleges that Buck and three other Republicans were also allegedly involved in an “election fraud scandal” in Weld County, and were “accused by fellow Republicans of altering the results from the March precinct caucuses.”
On June 3, the OARC responded to ProgressNow Colorado’s request for an investigation requiring Buck to respond to the allegations set in the complaint within a period of 21 days, according to the June ProgressNow press release.
The Attorney Regulation Process
Jessica Yates, Colorado Supreme Court attorney regulation counsel, said she was unable to comment on specific questions about the investigation.
The OARC’s role traditionally has been to investigate and regulate attorneys “accused of more serious violations” of the state Rules of Professional Conduct. This includes prosecution of attorneys when necessary. The model in Colorado is designed for moving minor cases of ethical misconduct to a quick resolution and to devote resources to cases that involve more serious attorney misconduct, according to the 2019 report. “The goal is to protect the public while educating attorneys to prevent any future misconduct.”
Complaints are made by opposing counsel, judges, clients and, in some instances, “concerned” citizens, the office’s 2019 annual report states. Trained investigators take all calls and review requests for investigation. Attorneys who are found to have violated the ethical rules face a range of stipulated outcomes, from private admonitions to disbarment.
When a complaint is received, the intake division conducts an initial review and analysis. After that is completed, the complaint is either dismissed, sent to diversion or the trial division conducts a further investigation. Next, the complaint is either dismissed, or is sent to the Attorney Regulation Committee, which either dismisses the complaint, sends it to diversion or private admonition, or leads to authorized formal proceedings.
At this stage the authorized formal proceedings lead to a hearing before a presiding disciplinary judge and two members of the Hearing Panel, which leads to either public censure, dismissal or to either diversion, suspension or disbarment.
In rare occasions, the OARC may seek immediate suspension of an attorney’s license to practice law “in order to protect the public,” the 2019 report states. Such a suspension may be appropriate when reasonable cause exists to believe that an attorney is “causing immediate and substantial public or private harm.”
“At the end of the investigation, there are numerous potential outcomes, many intended to quickly resolve less serious matter,” the report states. “If, at the end of the investigation, a resolution other than dismissal is reached, assistant regulation counsel may recommend a formal proceeding, diversion agreement, or private admonition.”
For attorneys who have been disbarred or suspended for a minimum of one year and a day they must apply for readmission or reinstatement, according to the report. These two processes are similar to attorney discipline cases and intended to assess the “attorney’s fitness” to return to law practice.