Ky. attorney Deters suspended for 61 days

Published: Feb. 23, 2012 at 6:26 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2012 at 8:06 PM EST
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Attorney Eric Deters (file image)
Attorney Eric Deters (file image)

LOUISVILLE, KY (AP) - A Northern Kentucky attorney who has a combative history with the Kentucky Bar Association was suspended for 61 days and ordered to attend ethics training for what the state Supreme Court found to be ethical violations.

The high court on Thursday also ordered Eric Deters, of Independence, to pay $1,834 for the cost of the bar association's proceedings against him.

The suspension stems from Deters' actions in multiple cases, including one involving attorney's fees and another that deals with comments made about a judge and opposing counsel.

Deters, who doubles as a radio talk-show host on WQRT ("Real Talk 1160") in Cincinnati, said the decision on "technical violations" is wrong and that he didn't get a fair hearing.

"For it to be a 7-0 decision really shocked me," Deters told The Associated Press. "Are you kidding me?"

The high court took issue with Deters making calls to the ex-husband of a client, who was watching over a child at the hospital. Chief Justice John D. Minton said Deters solicited the ex-husband's business and offered to file suit over the accident resulting in the child's hospitalization. The ex-husband declined, but Deters kept calling, and eventually filed documents on behalf of his client and her ex-husband, Minton found.

Deters said it was a simple mistake. In a separate case, Minton wrote, Deters took at $1,500 fee from clients to represent them in a harassment and property line dispute. Deters withdrew from the case less than two months later, but didn't refund any of the money.

The high court also found problems with Deters in a January 2008 case in which he accused Grant County Circuit Court Judge Stephen Bates and opposing counsel, Ruth Baxter, of improperly discussing a civil case without him present, resulting in Baxter winning the case. Deters then went on his radio show and made similar allegations.

Minton and the other justices found that Deters, despite his denials, had publicly made disparaging comments about Bates and Baxter.

"Specifically, Deters alleged that Judge Bates knew he had contributed money to the judge's opponent in previous elections and therefore ruled against him," Minton wrote.

Deters sued the Kentucky Bar Association in 2011 over its handling of the investigations into complaints involving Bates and the case involving his client and her ex-husband. U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves turned away Deters' lawsuit, which is now with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case is something of a victory for Deters, though. A bar trial commissioner initially found Deters guilty of 16 counts and recommended a six month suspension. The high court acted only on four charges. Deters noted that part of his suspension is based on a refusal to admit to unethical conduct.

"How can I get punished for not admitting I'm wrong when ... I'm found innocent?" Deters said. Deters, who is also licensed to practice in Ohio, said he will return to legal practice in Kentucky after the suspension ends.

Chris Davey, a spokesman for the Ohio Supreme Court, said an attorney licensed in that state has 30 days to notify the high court of any disciplinary action in another state. Then, the attorney has 20 days to show why he should not face the same or a similar punishment in Ohio.

Deters, though, plans to keep practicing law. "I've got to put this in perspective," Deters said. "I didn't lose any clients. My clients love me the way I am. I'm going to serve my time and move on."

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)