PIGOTT SURVIVES BOGUS COMPLAINT, JUDGE CALLS OPPOSING COUNSEL’S BEHAVIOR “INEXCUSABLE”

Dave Pigott, a Republican candidate for the Colorado state legislature, can get back to campaigning after a judge dismissed a highly publicized campaign finance complaint previously filed against him.

On August 6th, Denver attorney Adam Platt, also an active Democratic operative, sent reporters a copy of a complaint (and a press release) against Pigott, in which Platt argued that Pigott should have faced fines of up to $40,000 for allegedly misreporting basic campaign contributions, including $5 rolls of duct tape and a volunteer-created website.  Late last week, the court assigned to hear the case dismissed it in its entirety.

As OGI discovered through its own independent review of the allegations, Pigott had correctly reported the contributions in question.  Platt, meanwhile, made matters worse by woefully inflating the possible sanctions Pigott could have faced.  While Platt pegged the tally for Pigott’s fines at around $40,000, OGI’s own analysis found that under even the absolute worst case scenario, Pigott would have been forced to pay fines somewhere between a couple hundred and a couple thousand dollars.

In his order dismissing the complaint, Judge David Cheval viewed Platt’s failure to appear at an August 15th hearing as evidence he had “abandoned” the case.  Cheval was very unsympathetic to Platt’s excuse that he hadn’t received the notice because “he was out of town and the person who opened his mail was no longer employed by his firm.”

“Counsel was well aware at the time he filed the complaint that the hearing would be set within fifteen days following the date the complaint was referred to the OAC,” Cheval wrote.  “He knew, or should have known, that a notice of hearing was forthcoming.  Failure to monitor his incoming mail or check with OAC as to the status of the case amounts to neglect and that neglect is inexcusable.”

The dismissal comes after Platt vocally defended the allegations and attacked Pigott’s ethics as a fellow attorney.  On August 6th, Platt sent reporters a copy of the original complaint, along with a press release, and in which he proclaimed the following: “As an attorney and a candidate who has sworn to abide by Colorado’s rules to fully disclose the source of his campaign’s funding, David Pigott has failed in his duty to honor the transparency and accountability Colorado law requires.”

Platt may now be the one facing serious trouble, with possible sanctions that could include professional discipline or a tab for Pigott’s legal fees. Under state ethics rules, attorneys “shall not bring or defend a proceeding, or assert or controvert an issue therein, unless there is a basis in law and fact for doing so that is not frivolous, which includes a good faith argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law.” 

Typically, getting a court to award attorney’s fees is an uphill battle.  As Clear The Bench, a local judicial reform organization has concluded,  “Attorneys fees are awarded sparingly by Colorado judges, largely because those requesting the sanction must prove opposing counsel pursued legal action knowing they had little chance of prevailing or failed to do basic research before filing.”

OGI was unable to reach Pigott by phone today to ask him whether he plans to seek disciplinary action against Platt or seek compensation for attorney’s fees.  His attorney, Elliot Fladen, declined to comment.  If attorney’s fees awards in recent years are any indication, Pigott’s legal tab could run well into the thousands of dollars.   In 2008, the left-leaning Colorado Ethics Watch was forced to reimburse attorney’s fees for an organization it unsuccessfully targeted with an ethics complaint.