By Leo Wolfson, State Politics Reporter
A northern Wyoming attorney who has represented clients in a few Wyoming-based COVID-19 mandate-related cases has been suspended from practicing law for the second time in the past five years.
Buffalo attorney Nick Beduhn was placed under an indefinite, immediate suspension by the Wyoming Supreme Court upon a request by Melinda McCorkle, deputy bar counsel for the Wyoming State Bar. A formal charge was filed by the State Bar against Beduhn on Nov. 10.
The bar has accused Beduhn of abandoning clients and failing to cooperate with a bar counsel investigation into two disciplinary complaints made about him.
Called Out By Judges
Beduhn is accused in a pair of complaints of abdicating his responsibilities while serving as an attorney for clients opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates at Cheyenne Regional Medical Center and Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas in late 2021.
After submitting an initial filing for the case “that was poorly submitted and looked as though it was not looked over because there were many errors in the documentation,” Beduhn failed to take any future action in the case, according to complainant and plaintiff Tonya Middleton.
Beduhn failed to formally withdraw from the case and made no efforts to communicate with his clients or the court, according to the complaint.
“Several of our people, who are part of this case, called, left messages as well as emailed him with no response,” Middleton writes. “We are now trying to find other representation to pick up our pieces.”
Beduhn also was the attorney for Grace Smith, a Laramie High School student arrested on suspicion of trespassing at the school in October 2021 after refusing to wear a face mask and leave the LHS campus.
Smith, her father and nine other plaintiffs were represented by Beduhn in a federal lawsuit alleging claims of fraud against state officials and sought an injunction against any mandates or COVID policies concerning masks, social distancing, testing or quarantines.
The plaintiffs argued the state of Wyoming extended its COVID-19 public health emergency longer than necessary to get federal funding.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal ruled in January that the plaintiffs did not adequately state a cause of action and failed to follow federal filing rules.
The case was formally dismissed by Freudenthal in March, and she chastised Beduhn for failing to respond to several motions to dismiss the case, despite her orders reminding him of the briefing deadlines.
Beduhn also represented a different group of clients in an early 2021 lawsuit, requesting a court to make current and future COVID-19 health orders initiated by Gov. Mark Gordon, Wyoming State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist, and nearly every county health officer in Wyoming null and void.
This case was dismissed in May 2021 by Judge William Edelman in Johnson County District Court, citing many procedural flaws in the way the case was filed as well as problems with the claims made in the lawsuit.
Neither the Freudenthal or Edelman cases cases were mentioned in the State Bar’s recent request to suspend Beduhn, a member of the Wyoming State Bar since 2003.
Beduhn was suspended for a total of 2.5 years from 2017-2019 as a result of two separate suspension orders made during his time as a Park County public defender. Both stemmed from the Wyoming State Bar Board of Professional Responsibility’s findings that Beduhn was not diligent in attending to the duties of his cases and failed to communicate with clients in a number of cases.
Beduhn did not fight the charges and has publicly accepted responsibility for his actions. He was granted reinstatement by January 2021.
Out of Pocket
The primary complaints against Beduhn in his most recent suspension is that he failed to communicate with both his clients and the court in the hospital vaccine mandate case. The case was dismissed in February because of Beduhn’s failure to respond to the defendant’s motion to dismiss.
Beduhn failed to respond to a letter sent by the defendant’s attorney, Bradley Cave, about a recent Supreme Court case that rendered Beduhn’s case mostly moot, and a request Cave later made for sanctions to be taken against Beduhn.
Although that later request was rejected because the case had already been dismissed, the court described Beduhn’s actions as leading to a “vexatious and unreasonable multiplication of proceedings.”
“By neither voluntarily dismissing the complaint nor defending it, Mr. Beduhn forced the defendants to incur needless attorney’s fees,” the court wrote.
Beduhn failed to meet a March 25 deadline, where he was asked to explain his conduct, and was ordered to pay $6,779 for the defendant’s legal fees. To date, Beduhn has not paid any of those fees.
Deadlines Missed, No Responses
By April, the State Bar got involved, demanding a response to the allegations made against him. On May 31, Beduhn requested an extension to respond to one of the complaints due to an ailing parent, 15 days after the deadline had already passed.
McCorkle granted an extension to June 6, but Beduhn failed to meet this deadline and has never issued a response to either complaint.
This was the same tactic Beduhn employed in 2017 when facing charges from the State Bar, failing to respond to repeated requests for response. Failure to respond to the bar is a violation of the Wyoming Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, which require attorneys to respond to disciplinary complaints.
On Oct. 13, McCorkle filed a petition for Beduhn’s immediate suspension, accusing him of failing to represent and communicate with his clients, providing false evidence, frivolous and unsupported claims to the court. Beduhn never responded to the petition.
“We had a concern of immediate harm being caused,” McCorkle told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.
On Nov. 2, the Supreme Court granted the request for Beduhn’s immediate suspension.
McCorkle said it is rare that an attorney will have his or her right to practice law immediately suspended before charges have been filed.
Where Things Stand
Beduhn has yet to issue a response to the suspension order, for which there has been no deadline set. The Board of Professional Responsibility will perform a disciplinary hearing on the matter where McCorkle and Beduhn will be given a chance to present their cases and offer a recommendation, if any, for disciplinary action.
McCorkle said the Board of Professional Responsibility will consider the American Bar Association’s sanction levels when issuing a recommendation, where Beduhn’s past suspensions will be taken into consideration. The ABA’s list of sanctions includes disbarment, suspension of up to three years, probation, reprimand, admonition and fees.
The Board of Professional Responsibility’s recommendation will be brought before the Wyoming Supreme Court, which will make a final decision on the matter.
Beduhn will be suspended indefinitely until that time comes, but he can request to have his suspension lifted while the investigation is ongoing.