Speaker David Ralston faces investigation, possible disbarment

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston faces legal trouble after the Georgia Bar Association on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to investigate whether he violated multiple rules of conduct for attorneys.

The charges, which include violations of nine Bar Association rules, could lead to a public reprimand or possible disbarment if the Supreme Court rules against the Blue Ridge Republican. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained a copy of the complaint from the Supreme Court.

The case stems from Ralston’s representation of a man named Paul E. Chernak who hired Ralston’s law firm after a 2006 car accident. Chernak was injured but not at fault in the accident. Chernak claims that Ralston delayed his case for years, sometimes claiming “legislative leave,” a tool awarded lawmakers to postpone legal cases when their legislative duties require their attention.

Chernak also claims that Ralston sent him $22,000 via 12 separate checks to help pay his living expenses and that the money came from other clients’ accounts as well as Ralston’s own personal funds. If that proves to be true, it could be a serious violation of Bar rules concerning the misuse of clients’ trust accounts.

Chernak did not return requests for comment.

Ralston spokesman Marshall Guest said Ralston “takes any charges about his professional conduct as an attorney very seriously.”

“For more than 34 years as a practicing attorney, he has shown that he cares very deeply about his clients’ legal rights,” Guest said. “While he will continue to vigorously defend his professional reputation against these accusations of technical violations of State Bar rules, he will do so by continuing to fully cooperate with the investigation.”

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