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Wyoming State Bar Declines To Investigate, Disbar Hageman

in Harriet Hageman/News/politics

By Leo Wolfson, State Political Reporter

Although Harriet Hageman had been endorsed and recruited by former President Donald Trump and his staff to run for U.S. Congress in summer 2021, she remained vague for many months about her thoughts of what happened during the Jan. 6 , 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election.

During a debate in late June, her stance on this issue became more defined. 

That night, she said questions needed to be asked about election integrity on a national level, but she was more vague about whether she believes there was election fraud in Wyoming in 2020. 

She endorsed “2000 Mules,” a film that relies on questionable evidence to claim drop ballot boxes were stuffed and mentioned how the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that changes in absentee voting procedures violated that state’s Constitution. 

Hageman also complained about the Jan. 6 Committee that her opponent at the time, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, is the sitting vice chair on, describing it as “unfair.”

Cheney compared Hageman’s comments to rhetoric used by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, and other attorneys representing the former president, who have faced disciplinary hearings in their respective state bars.

Request For An Investigation

These comments were enough to convince attorney Darby Hoggatt he needed to file a complaint with the Wyoming State Bar, requesting the body initiate a disciplinary investigation of her.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021,” wrote Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in his July 2 letter to the bar. “If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Mark Gifford, counsel for the bar, took less than a single business day to respond to and reject Hoggatt’s complaint. 

Gifford said there was a significant difference between Hageman’s comments and the actions of Giulani and other attorneys because they offered their statements before a tribunal, not in a public forum. He did, however, express concurrence with Hoggatt’s assertion that Hageman’s claims were false.

“The conduct you point to with Hageman could just as easily be cast as the exercise of her right of free speech in voicing an opinion that is held by a large number of people, some of them, regrettably, lawyers,” Gifford wrote to Hoggatt on July 5.

“As a licensed attorney in the State of Wyoming, I believe it is incumbent upon your agency to investigate Ms. Hageman who appears to advocate and support the Coup that former President Trump attempted on Jan. 6, 2021. If a Wyoming attorney supports the overthrow of our democracy, how can she maintain her license to practice law?”

Darby Hoggatt, a Fort Collins, Colorado, attorney in a letter to the Wyoming State bar.

Response To Response

Hoggatt told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that he disagrees with this perspective and finds it a “cop-out” on the part of the state bar for not handling the matter. 

“I don’t think they wanted to get in the middle of that,” Hoggatt said. “They spent no time looking into this. They did not want to look into this at all.

“They didn’t do a damn thing. It was dismissed summarily.” 

He said Wyoming, a state that voted for Trump with a larger margin than any other in 2020, should not look past doing what he believes is right just because it might not be popular. Hoggatt views Hageman, a land and water attorney, as a representative of the state and its lawyers.

“I believe the Cheney v. Haggeman (sic) debate focus you to do something, because now Hageman has been called out nationally, and it is your agency that is charged with dealing with her,” he wrote in his letter.

What The Bar Can Do

It is unknown if any other complaints have been filed with the state bar as the organization does not disclose this type of information publicly unless it is brought before the Wyoming Supreme Court. The state bar can take a variety of steps against an attorney, ranging from private reprimand to public disbarment at the state’s Supreme Court level.

Gifford said the only possible rule that could be applicable to Hageman’s actions is Rule 8.4(c) of the Wyoming Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits a lawyer from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation. 

Hoggatt, who is licensed to practice law in Wyoming, believes the rule extends to an attorney’s actions outside the courtroom and that attorneys are held to a higher standard as it relates to free speech and the First Amendment. He provided the example that it is an attorney’s obligation to inform the state bar if he or she is charged with a crime such as driving under the influence of alcohol.

“Conduct in and outside of court is under oversight of the state bar,” he said.

Raising The Stakes

In early August, Hageman clarified and upped the ante on her views about the 2020 election, saying it was “rigged” and a “travesty.” The statements were made after Hoggatt sent his letter.

“At this point, the state bar knows what’s going on. They don’t need to receive another letter,” Hoggatt said.

On Friday, Hoggatt referenced a letter penned to Hageman by 41 attorneys and retired judges earlier this month, where they expressed a deep concern about Hageman’s views that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and requested that she stop spreading misinformation. 

In the letter, the attorneys mentioned how a lawyer is not allowed to “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” 

Hoggatt was not a signer of this letter, which includes some of the most prominent attorneys in Wyoming like Wyoming State Bar President Chris Hawks and Anna Reeves Olsen, president-elect of the state bar.

The letter also cites a 1975 U.S. Supreme Court case where the court ruled “(t)he interest of the States in regulating lawyers is especially great since lawyers are essential to the primary governmental function of administering justice, and have historically been ‘officers of the court.’”

‘Letter Is Meant As A Threat’

Hageman issued a blistering response to the letter, which she described as “threatening.”

“Make no mistake, this letter is meant as a threat against me simply because I hold a different political opinion – one that is shared by a majority of Wyoming voters,” Hageman said in a press release earlier this month. 

Hoggatt, who grew up in Newcastle and attended law school at the University of Wyoming, believes Hageman’s actions are tantamount to a rejection of the U.S. Constitution and part of an effort to overthrow the government. He said at the very least, the state bar should open an investigation on Hageman and issue a private reprimand.

“As an attorney practicing law, all laws derive from the Constitution,” Hoggatt said. “With the Constitution, if you don’t believe it, you have no right to be practicing law.”

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