An attorney who wrote a book marketed as an exposé of a Washington political insider has been disbarred for breaching client confidences.
The Indiana Supreme Court on Wednesday stripped Joseph Stork Smith of his license to practice law, concluding that he revealed confidential client information for personal gain.
The court identified Smith’s former female client as one who was “active in politics” and previously held a “high-level job in government.” It did not identify the former client by name, instead referring to her as “FC.” The court did not identify the book at issue.
However, Smith is the author of the book, Rove-ing Her Way to the White House: Machiavelli’s Sexy Twin Sister. The book, previously sold on Amazon.com but currently unavailable, purports to be a biography about Dee Dee Benkie, a former aide to President George W. Bush, according to a website she maintains, and a Republican National Committee committeewoman from Indiana. Benkie has recently appeared on Fox News Channel and elsewhere as a Republican strategist.
Smith, in a telephone interview on Thursday, confirmed that the disciplinary action involved the book about Benkie.
In it, he wrote that Benkie had a criminal background that should have prevented her from obtaining full security clearance to work as a presidential aide. Repeated attempts to reach Benkie for this article were unsuccessful.
In its unanimous decision to disbar Smith, the court concluded that as an attorney with 35 years of experience, he should have understood his responsibility to safeguard client information.
“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,” the court wrote.
Smith, 64, said that the statements in the book were true and that they revealed serious flaws in security procedures at the White House.“I am totally appalled by the court’s decision,” he said. “I stick to my premise.”
The court was not persuaded by Smith’s argument that the former client gave him permission to write the book. He also asserted that attorney ethics rules permitted him to disclose information about the client because it pertained to a client’s fraud—an argument the court rejected.
Smith, who practiced in Carmel, Ind., was admitted in 1976 and graduated from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. His practice included personal injury, business litigation, criminal and probate matters.
Smith’s disbarment becomes effective on August 28. He said he would not seek a rehearing.
Contact Leigh Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.