CINCINNATI — The Kentucky Supreme Court suspended prominent Northern Kentucky defense attorney Ben Dusing on Thursday, following a three-month review of allegations that he threatened two Northern Kentucky attorneys and used amphetamines during a federal criminal trial in New York. On Friday, the Ohio Supreme Court was asked to immediately suspend Dusing as well.
The indefinite suspension requires Dusing to “submit to a full psychological evaluation” to determine his “mental fitness to continue in the practice of law.” It also allows the court’s Inquiry Commission to launch formal disciplinary proceedings against Dusing, whose clients include former Cincinnati Councilman Jeff Pastor.
“The Commission has established probable cause to believe that Dusing’s conduct poses a substantial harm to his clients or to the public,” said the court’s 9-page ruling. “Dusing must, within 20 days of the date of the entry of this Opinion and Order, notify in writing all clients of his inability to provide further legal services.”
Dusing intends to apply for reinstatement as soon as possible, but he isn't sure what impact the suspension will have on his ability to represent Pastor.
"It’s not altogether unexpected," Dusing said in a press conference. "It’s my intent to do the things that have been asked of me to do."
A May trial date was set for Pastor, accused of taking bribes in exchange for favorable action on development projects. In January, prosecutors asked to delay the trial until this fall.
"This is a temporary suspension," Dusing said. "I’m hoping to serve my clients and if people want me to represent them, I’d like to be able to represent them at the appropriate time. But that’s on the back burner. I mean, we’re September/October for that case, at this point."
Dusing also said the suspension will not derail his recently announced campaign to be a Kenton County Family Court judge.
"It’s my intent to deal with whatever problem there is here deal with it in a forthright and transparent manner," he said. "If I’ve made some mistake, it’s my intention to handle it like all the other past mistakes, to learn from it, grow from it and carry on. But we’re committed to the message. We’re committed to making positive change at the court.”
Dusing shocked Northern Kentucky’s legal community in November when he told two attorneys involved in his daughter’s custody case to “knock it the **** off” in a Facebook post, adding: “Give me a ****ing reason to blow your ***** up.” Dusing said the Facebook post was “political speech,” intended to draw attention to public corruption, not to threaten violence.
But Kenton County Family Court Judge Christopher Mehling called it a “direct threat” to his staff attorney Alice Keyes and Stephanie Dietz, who represented Dusing’s ex-fiancee in the custody case.
The Nov. 2 video post lasted less than nine minutes and was taken down within 24 hours. But it also caused Judge Mehling to withdraw from Dusing’s case and ask the commonwealth attorney to investigate.
“The video was quite disturbing,” Judge Mehling wrote in his recusal order. “This court’s staff attorney was with me on the bench at the time and was physically upset during and after the playing of this video. She became fearful for her life.”
Mehling’s order was attached as evidence in a petition for temporary suspension against Dusing, filed Nov. 12. Also attached was an affidavit by Michael Hild, who alleged misconduct against Dusing during a federal criminal trial in New York.
"Dusing’s lack of preparation, poor performance at my trial, visible consumption of prescription drugs with runs to the pharmacy by his staff, are cause for grave concern now that I understand those prescription bottles to have contained amphetamines,” Hild wrote in an affidavit in which he sought a new trial “In fact, I remember Mr. Dusing stating during the trial that he was ‘back in business’ after clutching a large prescription bottle that his paralegal just retrieved from the pharmacy for him.”
The suspension was effective Feb. 24 and remains in effect until the Supreme Court orders otherwise.
“The issue before us is not whether Dusing is, in fact, a threat to his clients or the public, or whether, in fact, he is mentally disabled or is addicted to intoxicants or drugs and has the mental fitness to continue to practice law,” wrote Chief Justice John Minton on behalf of the unanimous court. “The issue is whether the Commission has established ‘that probable cause exists to believe’ those facts exist. From the record before us, the Commission has presented enough information to establish probable cause for us to believe either that Dusing poses a substantial threat of harm to his clients or the public or that he is mentally disabled and lacks the mental fitness to continue to practice law.”
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