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Originally published October 28, 2009 at 11:21 AM | Page modified October 28, 2009 at 3:16 PM

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Disbarred civil-rights attorney sues state bar

A Seattle civil-rights attorney who was disbarred earlier this month after the state Supreme Court unanimously found that he had gouged some clients and bullied others into unwanted settlements has sued the Washington State Bar Association, claiming its investigation was rife with errors and conflicts of interest.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A Seattle civil-rights attorney who was disbarred earlier this month after the state Supreme Court unanimously found that he had gouged some clients and bullied others into unwanted settlements has sued the Washington State Bar Association, claiming its investigation was rife with errors and conflicts of interest.

In a 69-page lawsuit filed Tuesday in bankruptcy court, Bradley Marshall claims the bar has exceeded its jurisdiction, that he was denied due process and that two hearing officers assigned to his case both had conflicts.

Specifically, he said one of the officers had applied to be a disciplinary attorney for the bar, while at the same time supposedly being an impartial hearing officer in Marshall's case, and the other received a $30,000 a year stipend from the bar as its chief hearing office, but failed to disclose it to Marshall, the lawsuit alleges.

Marshall claims that lawyer discipline lies squarely with the state Supreme Court, and that the state has illegally ceded many of those responsibilities to the state bar and its Board of Governors. He cites American Bar Association reports that have criticized the state's legal discipline system for blurring that line.

Marshall has a history of discipline with the bar dating to 1997, according to the bar's Web site. A case involving allegations that he paid what amounted to a "finder's fee" from client's funds to a nonlawyer who brought a case to his office resulted in a recommendation of disbarment and an eventual 18-month suspension of his license.

He claims, among other things, that the hearing officer in that case was inexperienced and employed by the city of Seattle, which Marshall had sued over allegations of racial profiling.

In another disciplinary case, he was accused of trying to get more money out of clients after he had agreed to take their cases for a flat fee. Marshall insists the additional money he sought was for costs, not attorney fees.

A telephone message left Tuesday with the state bar seeking comment on the lawsuit was not returned.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court, in a unanimous 51-page decision, disbarred Marshall for numerous ethics violations.

"These violations include demands for additional fees to continue a lawsuit that was paid for on a flat-fee basis, filing a lawsuit and a lien against a client who refused to pay him additional fees, a deceptive attempt to compel settlement, failure to obtain consent for a conflict of client interest, and other deceptive practices," wrote Justice James Johnson. "These facts are accompanied by multiple aggravating factors, including prior discipline for similar conduct."

Marshall filed the lawsuit in bankruptcy court because he has filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization.

Mike Carter: 206-464-3706 or mcarter@seattletimes.com

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