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Georgia House Speaker David Ralston: Dismiss State Bar complaint

Lawmaker denies violations

POSTED: August 8, 2014 2:14 a.m.

The State Bar of Georgia in June filed a petition in the state Supreme Court asking for a special master to investigate Ralston over accusations he allowed a 2008 case to languish while serving in the Legislature and advanced his client, Paul Chernak of Cumming, $22,000 to pay personal expenses. The petition said Ralston paid Chernak, who had been seriously injured in a crash, with his own money and money belonging to other clients.

The Supreme Court of Georgia has appointed Mark F. Dehler of Hiawassee to investigate the allegations against Ralston.

Potential penalties range from public reprimand to disbarment. The complaint accused Ralston of violating several areas of the Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct including diligence, communication and expediting litigation.

Ralston, in a response to the complaint filed Wednesday by his attorneys, acknowledged he had advanced money at no interest to the client after being told of the man’s inability to pay rent, obtain medical care or pay for basic necessities. Ralston added the funds came from his own legal fees from an unrelated case and did not involve funds bellowing to other clients or third parties.

The client eventually sought out a new lawyer to represent him in the case.

In an email to his fellow GOP House lawmakers, Ralston said he will be “vigorously defending” his professional reputation.

“My actions were open, honest and sincere regarding my representation of this client and my efforts to help his family,” Ralston wrote, adding he would continue working on behalf of the caucus and making sure members are re-elected in November.

“I love this caucus and I am proud of the accomplishments we have made together,” Ralston wrote.

Ralston, of Blue Ridge, has served in the Legislature since 2003 and was elected speaker in 2010.


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