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Kari Lake attorney skips disciplinary hearing as the AZ State Bar seeks to suspend his law license

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Kari Lake attorney skips disciplinary hearing as the AZ State Bar seeks to suspend his law license

May 21, 2024 | 6:04 pm ET
By Caitlin Sievers
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Kari Lake attorney skips disciplinary hearing as the AZ State Bar seeks to suspend his law license
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Scottsdale attorney Bryan Blehm skipped his disciplinary hearing on May 21, 2024, and instead posted a response to the State Bar of Arizona's request that his license be suspended by flipping the middle finger at the Bar. Screenshots via X.com

One of the lawyers who represented Kari Lake in her 2022 election challenge case skipped out on a disciplinary hearing Tuesday for making false claims to the Arizona Supreme Court that could leave him unable to practice law, instead literally throwing up a middle finger at the Arizona State Bar. 

Bryan Blehm, a Scottsdale divorce attorney, along with Kurt Olsen, a Washington, D.C., employment attorney, were both ordered to pay $2,000 in sanctions last year for writing in an appeal that it was an “undisputed fact” that more than 35,000 falsified ballots were illegally inserted into batches of legal ballots in Maricopa County when the November 2022 ballots were being sorted shortly after Election Day. 

The Supreme Court found that Olsen and Blehm provided no evidence of the claim and sanctioned Lake and her team for making “false factual statements to the Court.” Lawyers for the State Bar of Arizona told Presiding Disciplinary Judge Margaret Downie during a May 21 hearing that Blehm’s license should be suspended for six months and one day for lying to the Supreme Court, as well as for his refusal to take responsibility for his actions and to even show up for the hearing. 

Blehm and Olsen are both facing disciplinary action for making the false claim about illegal ballots in Lake’s failed challenge to the results of the 2022 governor’s race that she lost to Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes. 

Lake, a Republican who is now running for U.S. Senate, never conceded the race, despite losing two trials and multiple appeals in her effort to get the results of the election overturned. 

Even though Blehm refused to show up, Downie decided to continue with the hearing because he had not officially informed the court that he wouldn’t attend — and didn’t provide any real explanation for why he wouldn’t be there. 

Instead, on Sunday evening, Blehm sent an email to the State Bar of Arizona, informing them that he needed to “depart for Colorado” on Monday and wouldn’t be able to attend in person. Blehm did not inform the court directly through the email address that he was told to use for correspondence regarding the case, but instead copied a court employee who is currently on leave. 

The court only found out about his email from the State Bar, the day prior to the hearing, Downie said. 

During the hearing on Tuesday Senior Counsel for the Bar Hunter Perlmeter pointed to Blehm’s actions over the previous 10 days as evidence that he did not take responsibility for his actions or admit that he lied. 

“He filed a counterclaim against the State Bar in this disciplinary matter without any legal authority,” Perlmeter told Downie, adding that Blehm went on a talk show and called the Arizona Supreme Court order that serves as the basis for the disciplinary hearing “some sort of political compromise.”

Because Blehm lied to the court, failed to show up for the hearing and has not taken responsibility or show remorse for his action, the State Bar recommended that his law license be suspended for six months and one day. 

“The State Bar of Arizona seeks to use my own words against me,” Blehm posted on the social media site X on May 20, the day before the hearing. “They found me guilty without a trial and expect me to sit down and shut the f—k up. At one time, the bar associations supported free speech…They do not like that I refuse to bend and kiss the ring. If it is my dignity they are after, they have knocked on the wrong door.”

Downie asked the State Bar attorneys to justify such a lengthy proposed suspension, and she contrasted it with the punishment given earlier this year to election attorney and Republican State Rep. Alexander Kolodin, who was only put on probation for his role in lawsuits challenging the 2020 election. Among other things, Kolodin was an attorney on the infamous “kraken” lawsuit that made implausible and evidence-free claims of massive election fraud.

Perlmeter answered that, unlike Blehm, Kolodin was never accused of lying to the courts and that he was credited for having a cooperative attitude throughout the disciplinary proceedings. 

Kolodin also voluntarily entered into an agreement with the Bar, under which he accepted being put on probation, paid a fine and agreed to participate in continuing legal education ethics courses. 

Downie also cautioned the counsel for the State Bar that she wanted to ensure that the court did not impose more drastic punishment than it would in other cases only because the case in question involves elections. 

“This case has nothing to do with politics,” Perlmeter said, adding that the Bar was asking for the same punishment it would recommend for an attorney who knowingly lied to a judge in a family law or personal injury case. 

Perlmeter accused Blehm of engaging in “bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceedings” and highlighted his “refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his actions.”

Less than three hours after the disciplinary hearing ended, Blehm posted a video to X, saying he couldn’t make the hearing and was on his way to take care of some personal business. 

In the video, which was filmed in his car as he was stopped alongside a highway, Blehm accused the State Bar of asking for a six month and one day suspension in an effort to “isolate the most active MAGA attorney in the State of Arizona during the entirety of the 2024 election.”

In social media posts earlier this week, Blehm claimed that the State Bar was attempting to disbar him. Perlmeter insisted in the hearing that the claim was a lie, and while it isn’t technically true, the way the suspension is structured could allow it to be much longer than just six months — and possibly permanent. 

Phoenix criminal and constitutional lawyer Robert McWhirter explained that a suspension of six months and one day carried with it much more severe consequences than a suspension of only six months. After a suspension of six months or less, an attorney’s license is reinstated automatically. 

“A suspension for six months and a day is far worse than just six months,” he said. As a member of the State Bar’s Board of Governors, McWhirter said he couldn’t comment on Blehm’s case specifically.

Any lawyer suspended for more than six months has to apply for reinstatement with the Presiding Disciplinary Judge and participate in an evidentiary hearing before a panel comprised of the the judge, a lawyer and a member of the public, according to Alberto Rodriguez, communications director for Arizona courts. 

“The only thing worse is disbarment,” McWhirter said. 

In the video he posted shortly after the disciplinary hearing had concluded, Blehm shared his thoughts on the Bar’s recommendation for a lengthy suspension. 

“I have to go back to the State Bar and I have to grovel,” Blehm said. “I have to bend a knee and kiss their golden ring and get their permission to start practicing law again.”

Downie, along with a panel made up of attorney George Riemer and Marsha Morgan Sitterley, a member of the public, listened to the Bar’s arguments on Tuesday, and will ultimately decide what punishment Blehm will face. 

The court is required to issue a ruling within 30 days, but Downie said she did not expect to issue a ruling immediately. 

As Blehm concluded the video he posted to X following the hearing, he gestured at the camera with his middle finger. 

“If Bryan wants to practice law, Bryan has to sit down and shut the f—k up. Well, peace,” Blehm said.

***CORRECTION: This article has been updated to reflect that a panel including the Presiding Disciplinary Judge decides whether to reinstate a lawyer who is suspended for more than six months, not the Committee on Character and Fitness. 

It has also been corrected to show that Perlmeter accused Blehm of engaging in “bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceedings.”