Clark to seek return of law license

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Juneau attorney Jim Clark, expecting to have federal criminal charges against him dropped soon, hopes to then have his license to practice law reinstated, said Bruce Gagnon, Clark's attorney.

After Clark pleaded guilty in 2008 to a federal corruption charge as part of a plea bargain, the Alaska Bar Association suspended his license.

Now, with the charge expected to be dropped, Gagnon said there's no reason for the suspension.

"There is obviously no basis left for the suspension, the suspension was based on the conviction," Gagnon said.

Federal prosecutors last week said they would not object to dismissal of the charge against Clark being dismissed as a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer gutted the "honest services" criminal statute under which he was convicted.

A federal judge must still act to drop the charge, but that's likely a formality now that the prosecution is not objecting.

"That conviction is going to disappear," Gagnon said. "Unless something else happens, Jim has a clean slate."

Gagnon said Clark would apply for reinstatement, but Bar Counsel Steve Van Goor said that won't be necessary.

"He doesn't have to do anything," Van Goor said. "The bar moved for the interim suspension, now with the expected dismissal (of the conviction) the bar will ask to lift the interim suspension."

Van Goor said he did not know how long that process would take, but expected it to be relatively soon.

"I would think the court would take reasonably prompt action on something like this," he said.

Without a criminal conviction, a suspension based on that conviction would not be appropriate, he said.

"If the basis for the interim suspension is gone it ought not to continue," Van Goor said.

While the conviction will likely go away, the actions that led to the federal conviction are not in dispute.

Van Goor did not say if the bar would investigate on its own.

"We are aware of the conviction, we have not seen the underlying documents," Van Goor said. "A decision to investigate would have to depend on the information we are able to gather."

A further challenge to Clark's license could come either from a citizen or from the bar's disciplinary staff itself, Van Goor said.

Gagnon said he didn't know whether Clark intended to resume practicing law.

"Certainly he wants to have his name cleared," he said. Whether he resumes practicing law, that's something I haven't discussed with him."

Clark had been chief of staff for former Gov. Frank Murkowski and an ally of oil industry companies seeking new oil and natural gas tax and development deals. VECO Corp., an oil field services company, contributed $68,000 in illegal corporate campaign contributions to Murkowski's unsuccessful re-election bid, according to Clark's plea agreements.

"CLARK understands that this Factual Basis For Plea is merely a summary of Some, but not all, criminal conduct engaged in by CLARK," according the agreement he signed and which was filed with the Federal District Court in Anchorage.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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