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Kansas Supreme Court suspends law licenses of state Rep. Maughan, former Rep. Samsel

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Kansas Supreme Court suspends law licenses of state Rep. Maughan, former Rep. Samsel

Jun 14, 2024 | 3:35 pm ET
By Tim Carpenter
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Kansas Supreme Court suspend law licenses of state Rep. Maughan, former Rep. Samsel
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The Kansas Supreme Court issued a one-year suspension of the law license held by Rep. Carl Maughan, R-Colwich, for violating the professional code of conduct of attorneys for the way he represented in Sedgwick County District Court the driver of a vehicle that killed two disabled men in a 2016 traffic accident. He engaged in a conflict of interest by concurrently representing the defendant in the murder case, Bret Blevins, and the only other person in the vehicle, Tammy Akers, who Blevins claimed was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Supreme Court suspended Friday the law licenses of a current and a former member of the Kansas House based on evidence they violated of rules of professional conduct for attorneys.

The state’s highest court determined the license of Rep. Carl Maughan, R-Colwich, should be suspended for one year after engaging in a conflict of interest while representing in Sedgwick County the intoxicated driver of a vehicle that killed two disabled men in a 2016 traffic accident in Wichita.

A state disciplinary panel responsible for monitoring licensed attorneys in Kansas originally proposed a six-month suspension of Maughan’s license, which would have been converted to probation if he complied with a rehabilitation program.

Alice Walker, the state’s deputy disciplinary administrator, recommended the Supreme Court impose a 12-month suspension of Maughan’s license. During Supreme Court oral argument in May, Walker said the harsher penalty was warranted because Maughan had refused since December to cooperate with the office of disciplinary administration. He also failed to attend, due to a claim of car trouble, the Supreme Court’s hearing in May on his disciplinary case.

“At this time,” Walker said, “I don’t believe that Mr. Maughan is able to comply with a probation plan.”

Maughan, who has been a licensed attorney in Kansas since 1997, agreed he engaged in conflicts of interest that undermined representation of his client, Bret Blevins, who was charged with second-degree murder in the death of Dusty Atterbery and Dirk MacMillan. Evidence presented at trial indicated Blevins was intoxicated and consumed methamphetamine before running a stop sign in a residential neighborhood and steering a Cadillac Escalade broadside into a van carrying the men who died.

Blevins’ girlfriend Tammy Akers was the only other person in the vehicle. Akers was a longtime client of Maughan, and she offered to help pay $30,000 to Maughan to defend Blevins. During legal proceedings involving Blevins, Maughan asserted he secured conflict-of-interest waivers from Blevins and Akers. Part of Maughan’s strategy in defending Blevins was to argue Akers was driving the Cadillac at the time of the accident. Akers pointed a finger at Blevins.

Maughan represented Akers in a separate legal matter while serving as counsel to Blevins in the deadly traffic accident case, court records show.

After a trial in Sedgwick County District Court, Blevins was found guilty of 14 criminal offenses and sentenced to more than 725 months in prison. At the direction of the Kansas Court of Appeals, a hearing was conducted in Sedgwick County District Court to determine whether Maughan had a conflict of interest that undercut his ability to properly represent Blevins.

A Sedgwick County judge said there was no such conflict. At that time, Maughan’s wife was a sitting judge in the Sedgwick County District Court.

In 2021, the Kansas Court of Appeals issued a decision reversing the district court and affirming Blevins’ claim of inadequate counsel by Maughan. The case was returned for retrial in Wichita. In March, Blevins was resentenced to 205 months of incarceration.

The Court of Appeals had this to say about Maughan’s concurrent representation of Akers and Blevins: “It is not hard to imagine the significant risk of conflicting pressures upon an attorney when representing both a longtime client who is not only paying his bill but also implicated in the very crime with which his new client is charged, along with a new client whose only defense is to incriminate the attorney’s former client.”

 

Misconduct ‘clearly established’

At several junctures in the legal drama, Maughan claimed he secured oral or written waivers from Blevins and Akers. Maughan said those waivers allowed him to “zealously, diligently” represent Blevins in the murder case. The state Court of Appeals, however, concluded Blevins “did not waive his right to a conflict-free attorney.”

Maughan conceded during the state’s disciplinary investigation that he hadn’t obtained waivers from Blevins or Akers regarding his conflicts of interest.

“Even if he had not,” the Supreme Court’s decision said, “the evidence before the hearing panel clearly established the charged misconduct.”

Maughan was found by the justices to have engaged in conflict of interest, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and other infractions of professional conduct.

To return to legal practice in Kansas, the Supreme Court decided, Maughan must undergo a reinstatement hearing prior to that court considering restoration of his license.

Maughan is on the ballot for reelection to the Kansas House despite an assertion that his campaign was suspended two months ago.

In March, he was arrested in Shawnee County on suspicion of driving while drunk. The charging affidavit related to the DUI said Maughan had a loaded semi-automatic handgun, an empty bottle of Fireball whiskey and an opened case of beer in the vehicle when pulled over by an officer of the Topeka Police Department.

In response to his arrest in the DUI case, Maughan said his actions set a poor example for his family, constituents in the 90th District and citizens of Kansas.

“I made a grave error in judgment and apologize and accept responsibility for my actions,” he said.

 

The law license of former Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, was suspended for two years by the Kansas Supreme Court due to an incident in which he was arrested in 2021 for battery of Wellsville High School students. The Supreme court suspended the sanction while ordering supervision of Samsel's legal work as he addressed a diagnosed mental illness.
The law license of former Rep. Mark Samsel, R-Wellsville, was suspended for two years by the Kansas Supreme Court due to an incident in which he was arrested in 2021 for battery of Wellsville High School students. The Supreme court suspended the sanction while ordering supervision of Samsel’s legal work as he addressed a diagnosed mental illness. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Samsel’s disorderly conduct

Former Rep. Mark Samsel, a Wellsville Republican elected in 2018 and reelected in 2020, had his law license suspended by the Supreme Court for two years. That suspension was stayed pending his completion of a two-year probationary period that would include treatment for a mental health disorder, the order said.

In April 2021, Samsel was working as a substitute teacher at Wellsville High School when he kicked and shoved a student and grabbed another student by the shoulders. He was arrested on three counts of battery, but entered a guilty plea in September 2021 to three counts of disorderly conduct. He was instructed to serve one year of probation, seek mental health treatment and avoid interaction with social media.

The episode in the Wellsville classroom included comments by Samsel about suicide, sex, masturbation, God, the Bible, foster care and homosexuality. Students captured Samsel’s remarks on video. The video included the moment Samsel gave students permission to kick one of their classmates in the groin. He warned a male student that he was in jeopardy of receiving “the wrath of God.”

“Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” Samsel said on video. “Who likes making babies? That feels good, doesn’t it? Procreate. You haven’t masturbated? Don’t answer that question. God already knows.”

Samsel lost his reelection campaign to Carrie Barth, a Baldwin City Republican who currently serves that Kansas House district. Samsel left office two years ago.

The Supreme Court took note of evidence Samsel attempted to preserve his substitute teaching license by sending a letter on official Kansas House letterhead to the Kansas State Department of Education. In that letter, Samsel expressed a desire to resolve his teaching license problem so the Department of Education could continue to work effectively with the Legislature. In the end, he voluntarily surrendered his teaching license.

He also signed an agreement with the Office of the Disciplinary Administrator in which he conceded his conduct violated rules of professional conduct for an attorney and that his misconduct was the result of an untreated mental health disorder. He agreed his criminal acts reflected adversely on his fitness to practice law and that he had improperly implied an ability to dictate legislative policy on public education.

Samsel and the disciplinary administration office had agreed to a one-year suspense of his law license, but the Supreme Court determined a two-year suspension was appropriate. The justices stayed the sanction pending Samsel’s completion of two years’ probation, which included monitoring and supervision of his practice of law.