Candidate James Q. Butler in an old promotional video
I've wrestled with this information a bit (because much of the information is from a while ago), but ultimately decided it is important that I share it because I think it goes right to the heart of a candidate's ethics and fitness for office. It's something that a little casual Googling might miss, and Mr. Butler is lucky enough to appear first on the ballot in the race (a big deal in an ANC contest where voters may be less familiar with candidates).
Adam Roberts for re-election because I think he's done an excellent job during his first term. I would have endorsed him even if he were not running against Mr. Butler.
James Butler has a nice shiny website. On that website he has a long section on his past legal work, which is immediately followed by the text "Presently Butler’s work is focused on representing clients in Civil Rights matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), DC Office of Human Rights, and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)." You don't actually have to be an attorney to represent individuals before the bodies mentioned just above. That's key, because Mr. Butler is not an attorney. He used to be one, but he was disbarred on Nov. 5, 2009.
From the DC Bar website:
If you are wondering how I can be sure it's the same James Butler, let me explain. The email address and phone number you can get from the DC Bar for Butler ("jqbutler1[at]hotmail.com") are the same as the ones he provided to the Board of Elections. The home address for him listed on the bar website is an old one.
Text from Mr. Butler's website (highlighting is mine):
"After working with AHC, Inc. for more than a year, Butler began to work in private practice. He led a team of 4 full-time lawyers and 20+ full-time support staff in handling several hundreds of cases totaling into millions of dollars in settlement or awards. He successfully tried or settled cases against Mazda Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Jansen Ortho Pharmaceutical, VDOT, BP, and numerous other major companies, and insurance companies, throughout the United States. He has also successfully settled or litigated against every major insurance company in the nation.
Presently Butler’s work is focused on representing clients in Civil Rights matters before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), DC Office of Human Rights, and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)."
Frankly, if you read Mr. Butler's campaign website without already knowing his history, you would likely think he is still practicing law, and that his private practice work was generally something he should be proud of. I think it's not. His disbarment was for pretty egregious reasons, which you can read about in this Board of Professional Responsibility Hearing Committee order. Here's an excerpt from that order:
"Respondent was charged with multiple violations of twenty-one Rules of
Professional Conduct. Further, the charges involve ten cases. Forty-two other
investigations are pending, each of which would likely lead to multiple additional charges
if Bar Counsel completed the investigations."
And then there's this article from the Blog of Legal Times Disbarred Attorney Expected to Cost D.C. Bar More Than $500K in Claims. From the article:
"During the current fiscal year ending June 30, 78 claims have been filed to date. Of those, 63 involve this attorney.
The fund trustees estimate that claims involving this attorney will cost the fund between $550,000 and $600,000. The fund is expecting to process about 150 total claims relating to this one attorney, according to the fund's annual report to the Bar.
The attorney involved was disbarred by the D.C. Court of Appeals on Nov. 5, 2009, according to the report. A footnote dedicated to explaining the spike in claims noted that this attorney’s 'practice was primarily representing incarcerated individuals seeking post-conviction relief.'”
Only two attorneys are listed as having been disbarred on that date, and Mr. Butler is one of them. Based on the order I linked to above, it appears pretty obvious to me that the attorney discussed in the article above is Mr. Butler. That fund doesn't pay out just because you have an awful lawyer. Your lawyer has to actually wrongly keep an unearned retainer, or money that should otherwise go to the client. It's a big deal. "The Clients’ Security Fund (CSF) reimburses clients up to a limit of $75,000 for losses caused by the dishonest conduct of members of the D.C. Bar."
Butler was the Managing Partner for Butler Legal Group, PLLP, which no longer exists. This was only one of his websites, which are all down now. But you can find archived versions of them through the Wayback Machine. In a Nov. 19, 2008 version of his main site (http://www.butlerlawfirmdc.com) you can see that Butler refers to having taught a legal ethics course ("Mr. Butler has also engaged in academia. He has taught at several institutions of higher learning including Indiana Wesleyan University Graduate School of Management where he taught Legal Ethics"), which I just found interesting given his history.
There's more. Here's a sample promotional video (so the other people appearing in it are actors) starring Mr. Butler for Justice for All (J4A) TV-NEWS, which he intended to be the "media arm of the Butler Law Firm." I'm including a screenshot for those who can't immediately watch the video (which I highly recommend watching).
Now, all of this material is from a while ago. So maybe Mr. Butler is reformed, but I'm not sure that electing him to public office is the best way to test that theory. Plus, his own campaign website has said for a number of weeks that donations to his political campaign are tax deductible, which is just not true, and Mr. Butler should really know better.