“It will violate my First Amendment right to free speech,” said Wood, who has characterized his public statements as rhetorical hyperbole. “And if they do that and this harms me, then I will strongly consider suing them, and it will be a significant lawsuit.”
Wood, 68, became famous over the past quarter-century by representing clients who believed they were maligned by the government, the media and corporations. They include Richard Jewell, the initial suspect in the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park bombing, for whom Wood obtained settlements from several news organizations. Jewell’s lawsuit against The Atlanta Journal-Constitution was dismissed in 2011 after an appeals court ruled the newspaper’s reporting was substantially accurate at the time of publication.
Since Trump lost his re-election bid in November, Wood has filed lawsuits claiming widespread fraud and seeking to throw out Georgia’s votes. Courts have dismissed all of those cases. On social media and in other public forums, Wood also accused Republican officials such as Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of corruption.
The State Bar’s disciplinary board is investigating Wood under a rule that addresses lawyers’ incapacity from mental illness, alcoholism or other substance abuse, said Paula Frederick, the Bar’s general counsel.
The rule says that when the board determines a lawyer “may be impaired or incapacitated,” it may order medical or psychiatric evaluations and treatment. “That’s what has happened here,” Frederick said.
A lawyer’s refusal to follow the board’s order is “grounds for further proceedings,” the rule says, including emergency suspension of his or her license. Ultimately, a lawyer could be disbarred or face other penalties.
Wood said he has not drunk alcohol in eight years and his own doctor has determined he is of sound mind. The complaints, Wood said, are “frivolous.”
And he said the State Bar is opening a perilous front. “I’ve been around Atlanta for a long time. I’ve seen conduct by lawyers that does break the law in terms of drunkenness, other things that are going on. Is the State Bar going to regulate that conduct?”
“But like all of us, the State Bar will have to face the consequences of its choices,” he wrote on the social media site Telegram. “I will not go quietly in the night.”