Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh asked the state’s highest court Monday to step in and derail an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal lawyers over accusations of destruction of evidence that could eventually lead to them being disbarred.
Mr. Frosh, a Democrat who was a Clinton supporter in last year’s election, also asked the high court to reseal the case to prevent public view of the proceedings.
He said it was unfair to David E. Kendall, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson — the legal team that helped Mrs. Clinton peruse and delete emails from the account she used while at the State Department — that the accusations against them had become public even though they have yet to face any specific charges in Maryland.
Mr. Frosh said the real problem is that a crusading lawyer named Ty Clevenger has been allowed to push the case despite having no personal knowledge of the Clinton lawyers’ behavior, and a judge who ordered the investigation into the Clinton team to take place.
“As this case amply demonstrates, the further failure of the circuit court to comply with the letter and spirit of this court’s confidentiality Rules to protect attorneys from the public disclosure of unsubstantiated complaints of misconduct undermines the public confidence in the legal system and deprives the attorneys of court-mandated protections,” Mr. Frosh said in a new filing Monday with the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s version of a supreme court, which polices lawyers’ ethics.
Mr. Frosh’s office said the decision to appeal was made by the attorney grievance commission, which is a branch of the courts. As attorney general, he is tasked with representing the courts — and therefore the grievance commission — in cases.
The appeal comes just days after Mr. Clevenger demanded an update on the pace of the investigation, saying that by this point the grievance commission should have already sent inquiry letters to the three lawyers asking them to defend themselves.
He said even before the new filings he feared he was being slow-walked.
“Both a Democrat and a Republican judge have rejected the arguments of the Maryland bar prosecutors. The only way the bar prosecutors are going to win on appeal is if raw partisan politics prevails over the law,” Mr. Clevenger told The Washington Times.
Alexis Rodhe, an assistant attorney general who is defending the bar, called the accusations against the Clinton lawyers “frivolous” in a court hearing last month, and said the grievance commission has discretion to refuse to do an investigation.
The circuit judge rejected that, pointing to the rules that said the commission “shall” initiate a probe. The judge also said there was no evidence that the complaint was frivolous, saying the allegations “of destroying evidence” were serious and deserved investigation.
The commission changed its rules after Mr. Clevenger filed his grievance, apparently to head off any future attempts, and Mr. Frosh, the attorney general, now says the new rules apply retroactively, since it was only a procedural and not substantive change.
Ms. Rohde, who worked for Mr. Frosh, forwarded a request for comment Monday to a spokeswoman who said they wouldn’t talk about an ongoing case.
Mr. Frosh was a Clinton backer in last year’s campaign, and has become a strident opponent of President Trump this year, joining lawsuits to try to stop the new administration’s agenda.
The state’s attorney grievance commission, meanwhile, has some GOP donors but largely tilts Democratic, with at least three members who have donated to Mrs. Clinton’s campaigns in the past, according to records kept by the Center for Responsive Politics.
Other commission members or employees have donated to President Barack Obama’s campaigns, including Lydia E. Lawless, the bar counsel.
Mr. Clevenger said Maryland has handled his complaint oddly from the start.
“Normally, when an attorney is accused of misconduct, bar prosecutors order that attorney to respond to the complaint in writing and then share a copy of the response with the person who filed the complaint. If Maryland had followed its normal procedures, Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers would have to choose between answering the complaint or asserting their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination,” he said.
“If they answer my complaint, they run the risk of implicating themselves in multiple felonies. If they assert their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, that can be used as evidence of guilt in a disciplinary case and they can be disbarred,” Mr. Clevenger said.
The lawyer also has a bar complaint lodged against Mrs. Clinton herself in Arkansas. The bar investigators there have told him they expect to have a decision early next year.