What does it take to get the Kansas Supreme Court to vote unanimously to disbar you?
Let's take a look.
Pictured above is Kansas lawyer Dennis Hawver, who was disbarred earlier this year for his "inexplicable incompetence" as an attorney, Slate reported.
As if to demonstrate said inexplicability firsthand, Hawver showed up to his disbarment hearing dressed as Thomas Jefferson, powdered wig and all, to argue that he should not be disbarred for the way he defended his client, Philip Cheatham, in a murder trial.
Here's how the Topeka Capital-Journal described the situation:
Wearing a white powdered wig, a dark 18th century suit and long white stockings, Hawver sat in the Supreme Court listening to two earlier cases before his disciplinary case was called. Hawver represented himself during the hearing before the Supreme Court and before the disciplinary administrator's office in November 2013 … Hawver said he dressed as Jefferson, his personal hero, to see whether the Kansas Supreme Court would protect his constitutional rights. "Am I going to get you to protect my rights to defend my client" as I see fit? Hawver said. The First Amendment protects his actions with his clients, and the Sixth Amendment protects the rights of his client, he said. Hawver said he might not have jumped through every "American Bar Association hoop" but he believed Cheatham was innocent … "Phillip Cheatham didn't complain about my performance. You did," Hawver said, referring to the justices. "I am incompetent!" Hawver said, banging the lectern with his hand.
Accused of murdering two women and injuring a third, Cheatham was convicted and sentenced to death after Hawver "defended" him in 2005 — but that conviction was overturned on the grounds that Hawver's defense had been so shoddy.
Some highlights from Hawver's legal defense strategy:
- Hawver ran with Cheatham's alibi that Cheatham had been out of town at the time of the murders and therefore could not have committed them, but Hawver was unaware of the fact that he could use cell phone records to prove where Cheatham had been at the time, so he didn't corroborate the alibi that way.
- Hawver also failed to interview witnesses that could have corroborated the alibi, the state claimed.
- Hawver argued that his client couldn't have committed the crime because his client would have never left a witness alive.
- Hawver described Cheatham — the man he was defending — to the jury as a “professional drug dealer” and a “shooter of people.”
- Hawver told the jury about his client's previous voluntary manslaughter conviction — even though prosecutors had agreed they would simply inform the jury that Cheatham had a prior felony conviction but not say that it was specifically for manslaughter.
- Hawver told the jury that they should sentence the person responsible for the murders to death — after the jury had determined that Cheatham was that guilty person.
With all that considered, the Kansas Supreme Court disbarred Hawver in September, despite Hawver's impassioned self-defense and appeals to his Constitutional rights.
“In this court’s view the essentially uncontroverted findings and conclusions regarding Hawver’s previous disciplinary history, his refusal to accept publicly financed resources to aid in his client’s defense, and his inexplicable incompetence in handling Cheatham’s case in the guilt and penalty phases of the trial are more than sufficient to require disbarment,” the court said.
If you care to watch Hawver's arguments in his own defense, check out the video below:
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