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STAFF REPORTER Just about any attorney who is asked has an opinion about Douglas Schafer; some stronger than others. Schafer, the Tacoma, Wash.-based attorney who divulged client confidences to ensure removal of a judge he viewed as corrupt, has been suspended from practicing law for six months by the Washington Supreme Court. In re Schafer, No. 08652-4. The suspension has touched off strong reactions among attorneys and legal experts. “Douglas Schafer is not a whistleblower, but a turncoat,” asserted Lawrence J. Fox, a partner at Philadelphia’s Drinker Biddle & Reath. Fox said that he thought the Washington Supreme Court was too lenient in suspending Schafer for six months: “I would disbar the guy.” Fox’s reaction is at the extreme end of the spectrum. Due to the ethical dilemma Schafer was in-and because he performed a public service in exposing the misconduct of Pierce County Superior Court Judge Grant L. Anderson, who was removed from office in 1999-most experts on professional responsibility favor a middle ground. In 1992, the Washington Supreme Court court noted, Schafer represented businessman William Hamilton in the purchase of a bowling alley from an estate represented by Anderson, who was then in private practice. Hamilton dropped hints that Anderson was allegedly defrauding the estate. When Schafer next looked into the matter three years later, he found public records that tended to substantiate Hamilton’s hints. Schafer could have relied on those public records to initiate Anderson’s removal without ever revealing Hamilton’s confidences, the court argued. Fox doesn’t agree. He served on the ABA’s Ethics 2000 Commission, a panel that recommended that the ABA’s model rules be amended to allow greater reporting of client misconduct in some circumstances. Nonetheless, Fox said that, “I don’t think that Schafer should have made any disclosure at all, because there is no way he could know that it would not come back to haunt his client. We give up the right to go on moral crusades when we agree to advocate our client’s rights.” Professor Roger C. Cramton, who teaches professional responsibility at Cornell Law School, wishes that the court had hit Schafer less heavily. He worried that whistleblowing could be deterred. Cramton said that there are two troubling aspects to Schafer’s conduct: the fact that he waited three years to investigate Hamilton’s hints; and the fact that he went further than he needed to, reporting not only to prosecutors and disciplinary authorities, but also to the press. Motivation an issue Professor John Strait of the Seattle University School of Law said “Schafer did us all a favor by getting rid of Anderson,” but otherwise has little good to say about Schafer’s actions. Strait has long been familiar with the case, since Schafer approached him for advice shortly after he began investigating Anderson. Strait noted that a disciplinary hearing officer found that Schafer swung into action only after Anderson had ruled against him in a 1995 case that Schafer was handling. Strait also noted that Anderson was not removed for defrauding the estate, but rather because he failed to disclose that he received a Cadillac from Hamilton as compensation and because he was less than cooperative during his disciplinary investigation. He added that if Schafer had acted in 1992, he might have been able to report Hamilton’s remarks under a Washington state rule that allows disclosure if necessary to prevent a future crime. Finally, Strait said, “I have been advised that [Schafer] was offered an admonition [by the state disciplinary board], but turned it down and insisted on going to a hearing.” Schafer said, “I don’t recall any suggestion by the bar that we negotiate a deal.” But he conceded, “I may have deflected such an offer early on by making it clear that I would not admit any wrongdoing,” a stand that he takes to this day. Schafer said he waited three years because he was worried that Hamilton might be prosecuted for his involvement in Anderson’s deals and acted only when the statute of limitations had run. He denies that he was driven by anger at Anderson’s 1995 rulings, which affected his client and not him. Young’s e-mail address is [email protected]

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