Greitens' restraining order request denied

Governor sought to bar probe by attorney general

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens takes questions Jan. 22, 2018 during a press conference at the State Capitol.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens takes questions Jan. 22, 2018 during a press conference at the State Capitol.

Gov. Eric Greitens "is not entitled to a temporary restraining order" against Attorney General Josh Hawley or his office, Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem ruled Friday afternoon.

In a two-page order, Beetem also said Greitens "failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted" and sustained Hawley's motion to dismiss the governor's lawsuit.

Hawley spokeswoman Mary Compton said the attorney general's office was "pleased with the judge's order."

Greitens' lawyers did not respond to a request for a comment.

Nearly two weeks ago, the governor asked for an order blocking Hawley and the attorney general's office from continuing to investigate The Mission Continues, the St. Louis-based veterans charity Greitens helped found in 2007.

Hawley and his staff started the probe in March, and information gathered from it was provided to St. Louis City Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who last week filed a felony charge against Greitens for tampering with a computer, taking email and donor lists from the charity in 2015 and using those lists to raise funds for his gubernatorial race.

The governor already faces a May 14 trial in St. Louis on an earlier felony charge of invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a photograph of a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair, while she was at least partially nude and without her consent in a manner where the picture could have been shared with a computer.

After a special Missouri House committee released its April 11 report detailing Greitens' encounters with the woman - including reports the then-future governor had bound her hands, blindfolded her, ripped off clothes he had given her to wear and took the picture - Hawley said information in the report could lead to impeachment charges against Greitens and the governor should resign.

Greitens argued those comments meant Hawley's investigation would not be objective - and his comments had violated Supreme Court rules.

But Beetem explained, "There is no private cause of action for violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct."

Citing a "comment to the Scope of Supreme Court Rule 4," the judge added, "Violation of a Rule should not itself give rise to a cause of action against a lawyer, nor should it create any presumption in such a case that a legal duty has been breached. In addition, violation of a Rule does not necessarily warrant any other nondisciplinary remedy, such as disqualification of a lawyer in pending litigation."

The comment noted the Supreme Court's rules "are designed to provide guidance to lawyers and to provide a structure for regulating conduct through disciplinary agencies. They are not designed to be a basis for civil liability."

Beetem also stated, "The fact that a Rule is a just basis for a lawyer's self-assessment, or for sanctioning a lawyer under the administration of a disciplinary authority, does not imply that an antagonist in a collateral proceeding or transaction has standing to seek enforcement of the Rule.

"While a rule violation might warrant disqualification in the context of a specific case, there is no such case pending before this Court. Nothing in the Rules of Professional Conduct grant this Court the authority to globally enjoin the Attorney General from performing tasks authorized by statute on the grounds that he is violating (Supreme Court) Rule 4."

Beetem noted he made "no finding" Hawley violated any of the court's Rules of Professional Conduct or that Greitens committed "any violations of criminal law. The Court simply finds that (Greitens) has failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits and is not entitled to a temporary restraining order."

Beetem's ruling was issued about 27 hours after he finished hearing oral arguments in the case.

During those arguments, D. John Sauer - Hawley's solicitor and first assistant attorney general - argued the court rules Greitens' lawsuit accused Hawley of violating are intended for prosecuting attorneys, not the attorney general.

Beetem agreed, writing: "Rule 4-3.8 by its plain language expressly applies only to criminal prosecutions and not to investigations which might reveal evidence of criminal conduct. Nothing before the Court indicates that the Respondent Attorney General is currently prosecuting a criminal case against Petitioner, let alone one before this Court."

In addition to seeking an order blocking Hawley and the attorney general's office from continuing its investigation, Greitens' lawsuit asked the court to name a special prosecutor to do that work.

But, Beetem said, he couldn't approve that request, ruling: "This Court's authority for appointment is limited to actions within its criminal jurisdiction. No such actions are pending in this Court."

Beetem dismissed Greitens' case "with prejudice," which means it can't be filed again.

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