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Detroit-A sex-and-blackmail scandal in Michigan has landed two prominent lawyers in the hot seat: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox and attorney Geoffrey Fieger, ex-lawyer to assisted-suicide doctor Jack Kevorkian. Fieger and Cox are both under investigation by the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission for an alleged extortion scheme involving an extramarital affair by Cox, and an alleged threat by Fieger to disclose it. Cox, who admitted to the affair three weeks ago, claims that Fieger threatened to disclose his indiscretion if Cox did not drop an investigation into Fieger’s alleged campaign finance violations. Fieger denies the allegation and has filed a complaint against Cox with the grievance commission, accusing Cox of illegal and unethical conduct. The commission is expected to complete its investigations in four to six months, and could recommend anything from a reprimand to suspension to disbarment. Cox declined comment. Fieger, of Southfield, Mich.’s Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Johnson, was unavailable for comment. ‘Mud-wrestling scenario’ Robert Edick, deputy administrator for the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, called the whole debacle “a mud-wrestling scenario” that taints the legal profession. Edick could not comment on any specifics of the Fieger-Cox controversy because state Supreme Court rules bind him from doing so. He would only say, “The charges are obviously serious anytime you have allegations of extortion, obstruction of justice. Things of that nature, that would be extremely serious,” Edick said. The commission gets about 4,000 complaints of lawyer misconduct a year, but prosecutes just 5% of them, he said. Edick noted that neither Fieger nor Cox have ever been disciplined by the grievance commission, although there is a case pending before the panel involving allegations that Fieger lashed out at a court of appeals judge in 1999, he said. “He’s quite a character. Unfortunately, sometimes he’s his own worst enemy,” Edick said of Fieger. The alleged extortion plot came to light on Nov. 9, when Cox called a news conference during which he revealed, in a tearful admission, that he cheated on his wife several years ago. “The people involved underestimated me when they failed to consider that I would expose any attempt at extortion or obstruction of justice. They thought that I would cower. They thought that my wife did not know nor did they count on my resolve to do my job at any cost,” Cox said at a news conference. “I do not seek anyone’s sympathy. But anyone who thinks they can use a personal matter to prevent me from fulfilling my public duties as attorney general is sadly mistaken.” Over the last several months, Cox had been investigating allegations that Fieger tried to funnel $457,000 anonymously into a television ad campaign last fall attacking Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman. Fieger believes that Markman has a bias against him. He alleges that the judge has taken part in numerous decisions over the last several years that have taken away nearly $90 million in judgments from his clients. Fieger has admitted to funding the ads, but maintains he did not violate any state laws. He believes that Cox’s investigation is politically motivated, noting that Cox last year donated the maximum $34,000 to Markman’s Supreme Court re-election campaign. And last month, Cox hired Markman’s wife to work in the civil division of the attorney general’s office. Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca recently announced that there was not enough evidence to charge Fieger with blackmail. He did, however, refer the case to the grievance commission after reviewing transcripts and a taped conversation between a Fieger associate and one of Cox’s associates. The conversation contained lewd remarks about Cox’s affair, and a proposed deal to keep the affair quiet if the campaign investigation was dropped.

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