LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel believes his relationship with a Hot Springs lawyer did not violate the rules of professional conduct for Arkansas lawyers, McDaniel spokesman Aaron Sadler said Thursday.
McDaniel admitted Tuesday that he had an inappropriate relationship with Andrea L. “Andi” Davis, whom he said he met in 2010 while campaigning for re-election. McDaniel said he had limited contact with Davis in 2011 and that some of it was “inappropriate.”
McDaniel, who has announced as a Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, made the admission after the relationship was mentioned in divorce filings in Garland County Circuit Court between Davis and her estranged husband, Frederick N. “Fred” Day. McDaniel and his current wife, Bobbi, have been married since 2009.
Responding Thursday to questions from the Arkansas News Bureau, Sadler said Davis has represented clients in five cases in which the attorney general’s office was counsel for opposing parties.
They included two cases before the Arkansas Veterinary Medical Examining Board involving Davis’ client, Dr. Bob Zepecki; an additional case involving Zepecki in Pulaski County Circuit Court; a Deceptive Trade Practices Act case involving Davis’ client, Rex Allen Curtis; and a lawsuit over the state’s school choice law in which Davis represented parents whose children were denied transfers because of the law.
The attorney general’s office prevailed in the first four cases. In the school choice case, a federal judge struck down the law and both sides have filed appeals.
“The AG never discussed school choice with Ms. Davis at any time. All of these cases were handled by senior and assistant attorneys general without direct involvement by the attorney general,” Sadler said.
Also, Sadler said that in August an order was entered in Garland County Circuit Court directing any local, state or other law enforcement agency to assist the Garland County sheriff’s office with the return of Davis’ children from New Jersey. After being notified of the order, the attorney general’s office advised Davis that it could not help her and referred her to law enforcement in New Jersey, he said.
Sadler said the Arkansas Rules of Professional Conduct “neither prohibit a relationship between opposing attorneys nor require that a client be notified of a relationship.”
Rule 1.7 states that a lawyer may not represent a client if there is a significant risk that the representation “will be materially limited by the lawyer’s responsibilities to another client, a former client or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.”
Sadler said McDaniel was never in that situation.
“The attorney general submits that there was no risk that his interactions with Ms. Davis would materially limit the office’s representation of the state or the Arkansas Department of Education,” he said. “The day-to-day responsibility for the (school choice) case was placed with an assistant attorney general who was instructed by the AG, and other supervising attorneys in the office, to defend the claim as vigorously as possible.”
Stark Ligon, executive director of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s Office of Professional Conduct, said Thursday he could not say whether a complaint had been filed against either McDaniel or Davis. Complaints do not become public until the state Committee on Professional Conduct imposes a sanction that becomes final or holds a public hearing, he said.
Ligon, who has served as the office’s director since January 2001, said he could not recall any instance in which an Arkansas lawyer was sanctioned for having sex with opposing counsel in a case.