N.H. Attorney Loses Appeal Of Suspension
State: Hanover’s Clauson Violated Conflict Rules
Hanover — A veteran Hanover lawyer’s appeal of a six-month suspension for violation of professional conflict of interest rules has been rejected by the state Supreme Court.
K. William Clauson, whose suspension is set to begin next month, said yesterday he is out of avenues to fight the disciplinary action.
“It is not possible to appeal this latest decision, so there is nothing else to do but comply with the order,” he wrote in an email.
The suspension stems from a 2009 domestic violence case in which Clauson ultimately represented both wife and husband.
Clauson’s initial client, an Orford woman whose husband was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, wanted the court to lift a stipulation of her husband’s bail that said he could not have contact with Clauson’s client or their teenage daughter.
Clauson ended up representing the woman’s husband during bail modification hearings in Lebanon District Court.
Late last month, the state Supreme Court declined Clauson’s latest appeal of a 2011 ruling by the state’s Professional Conduct Committee, which hears complaints against attorneys and is under the purview of the Supreme Court. The conduct committee found that Clauson’s role in representing both the defendant and the alleged domestic violence victim violated conflict of interest rules.
Clauson contested those findings, shifting the process to the Supreme Court, which last year directed the Professional Conduct Committee to reconsider the six-month suspension. At that time, the court concurred that Clauson violated conflict of interest rules, but the justices found there were flaws with other parts of the ruling and sent it back to the conduct committee for reconsideration.
The court disagreed with the conduct committee’s assertion that there had been a “successive” conflict of interest. A successive conflict occurs when a lawyer represents clients who have “materially adverse” interests in the same issue. Since the wife that Clauson was representing opposed the criminal case against her husband and wanted to have contact with him, the court found there was not “clear and convincing evidence” of successive conflict.
After reconsidering the case, however, the Professional Conduct Committee stood by its original findings and maintained a six-month suspension for Clauson that was to have started on May 1.
Clauson again appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that his penalty should have been reduced because the court had disputed two of the violations.
On June 27, the court rejected Clauson’s appeal, and the Professional Conduct Committee again imposed the six-month suspension.
The conduct committee’s orders instruct the 69-year-old Clauson to cease all law practice by Aug. 9 and not take any new cases for new or existing clients. Clauson must notify his clients and opposing counsel in writing of his suspension and help his clients transfer their files.
Clauson said in a news release that he agreed with the Supreme Court’s findings, but he disagreed with the conduct committee’s choice of sanction.
“However, I will fully comply with the sanction and hope to be back serving my clients as soon as possible. In the meantime, I look forward to taking an extended vacation.”
Clauson, who graduated from Boston College Law School, has been subject to five other disciplinary actions during his 40-year legal career. He was reprimanded three times between 1981 and 1996. He was warned in 2005 to exercise care in characterizing evidence, and he was censured in 2007 for representing a physician who was in contractual dispute against a former client of Clauson’s, according to the conduct committee.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.
This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The law firm of Clauson and Atwood disbanded six months ago, and Brad Atwood is now a partner with Lebanon-based Hughes Smith & Hughes PLLC. An earlier version of this story was unclear on that point.