Scott Bloch, solo practitioner (Roberto Westbook)
SACRAMENTO — A State Bar Court judge has recommended that Scott Bloch, former head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, be barred from practicing law for 30 days for his role in the deletion of files from federally owned computers.
Bloch, appointed by former President George W. Bush to the Office of Special Counsel in 2003, had a troubled five-year tenure leading the agency that advocates for federal whistleblowers. By early 2005, he was under investigation for allegedly retaliating against whistleblowers who brought concerns to his office. He was advised that year by the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general to retain any documents related to the complaint.
But in 2006, Bloch began experiencing recurring problems with his government-issued laptop. In December 2006, dissatisfied with the work of agency IT employees, Bloch retained a technician from the private company Geeks on Call to perform a “seven-level wipe” of his laptop, a procedure he learned about from someone outside the office, as well as two others used by former OSC employees. Documents on Bloch’s laptop were moved to an encrypted flash drive, and Geeks on Call billed the OSC for its work. The computers were rendered temporarily unusable.
A 2007 newspaper article about the Geeks on Call work triggered an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Bloch told committee officials that he had never heard of a seven-level wipe before his laptop was cleaned. He also said that he didn’t know Geeks on Call had worked on the other two OSC computers. Both statements were untrue.
In February 2013, Bloch pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of depredation of government property. He was sentenced to a day in jail, two years’ probation, a $5,000 fine and 200 hours of community service.
In a decision released Wednesday, State Bar Court Judge Lucy Armendariz found that Bloch’s lies to the committee constituted moral turpitude.
“It is not credible that when respondent was being interviewed by the committee that he did not remember that he had heard of a seven-level wipe prior to the appearance of the Geeks on Call technician at the OSC,” Armendariz wrote.
The judge cited his 20 years of discipline-free legal work in Kansas and the testimony of 26 witnesses to his character as mitigating factors. Armendariz also found that bar prosecutors had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Bloch was trying to delete files as part of a cover-up.
Bloch’s attorneys in the matter, Jonathan Arons and Alexis Gough of the Law Office of Jonathan Arons, did not return messages seeking comment Wednesday. Bloch is a solo practitioner in Washington, D.C.
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