After disgracing his office by making dangerous and entirely false claims about nonexistent voter fraud, could U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley lose his law license?
At least 60 attorneys have attached their names to a formal complaint against Hawley, Kansas City attorney Hugh O’Donnell said. The group wants the Missouri Supreme Court’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel to investigate the senator’s actions leading up to the assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Lawyers from St. Louis to Kansas City had been expected to file complaints after gathering the signatures.
More attorneys still could sign on to the effort, O’Donnell said. Alan Pratzel, the chief disciplinary counsel in Missouri, wouldn’t confirm or deny whether an official complaint against Hawley has already been filed.
Hawley, like any other attorney accused of malfeasance, should be afforded due process. But history will not be kind to the junior senator from Missouri. He brought shame to his office and his profession — and must answer for his treasonous misdeeds.
Hawley’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
In the letters drafted by practicing attorneys across the state, Hawley stands accused of professional misconduct and violating his oath as a senator, among other questionable acts.
There should be no question about Hawley’s culpability, and his indefensible actions must have consequences. He helped lead the charge to try to overturn a free and fair election, echoing President Donald Trump’s fabricated claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and offering a fist pump of encouragement to the rioters who stormed our country’s Capitol.
The deadly Jan. 6 insurrection left a stain on our country and put public servants’ lives in danger. Five people died, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick.
Repercussions ranging from a public reprimand to disbarment should be considered, said Alan Hoffman, a retired attorney from St. Louis who circulated one of the letters seeking sanctions against Hawley.
“The accusations are serious enough to warrant disbarment,” Hoffman said. “But that’s not my determination to make.”
In one of the letters, Hawley is accused of making public statements with “reckless disregard for the truth.” He wrongly alleged that judicial and elected officials in Pennsylvania committed unlawful acts, “conduct antithetical to the integrity of the profession,” the letter reads.
Hawley’s actions “have undermined public confidence in and respect for the institutions of the United States,” another letter reads.
Tom Porto and O’Donnell are among a group of Kansas City attorneys who signed a complaint. Both were stunned by Hawley’s actions contesting the election and the vile rhetoric that led to a mob descending upon the Capitol.
“As a fellow attorney, I am ashamed of him,” Porto said.
“I am appalled by Sen. Hawley,” O’Donnell said.
Self-declared ‘leading constitutional lawyer’
Hawley, whose Senate bio declares that he’s “one of the nation’s leading constitutional lawyers,” has yet to take responsibility for his role in inciting an assault on democracy or apologize for repeating baseless allegations about a fraudulent election.
“That photo of him giving that pseudo-fascist salute was the last straw,” Hoffman said.
Missouri’s senator so far has managed to avoid answering legitimate questions about his leading role in attempting to overturn the election, hiding behind guest columns filled with specious claims and opting for appearances on friendly television networks.
While Hawley is far more focused on his political ambitions than on actually practicing law, an inquiry into whether Hawley violated rules of professional conduct could force him to answer for his actions.
Anyone can file a complaint against an attorney who practices law in Missouri. Once a grievance is filed, an investigation will determine the merits of the allegations. If formal charges are filed, the case will be sent to the Missouri Supreme Court. Once the accused attorney answers the charges, subsequent hearings will be open to the public, Pratzel said.
Hawley’s actions were cynical, wrong, politically motivated and incendiary. He has dishonored his office — and his profession. Hawley violated the oath that all lawyers in Missouri swear to support the Constitution, and a formal investigation by the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel should hold him to account.