State bar asks for investigation into House Speaker Ralston

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ATLANTA - Channel 2 Action News has learned the State Bar Association is taking action against Georgia House Speaker David Ralston.

Investigators have asked the Supreme Court for a special master to look into allegations that Ralston violated several bar rules during an injury accident case he handled for several years.

“It's been a nightmare,” said former police officer Paul Chernak.
 
Eight years after being T-boned while driving this truck, Chernak said he still hurts every day from his injuries and the fact his lawsuit lingers.
 
“I'd never dream I'd be like this,” Chernak told Channel 2’s Tony Thomas.  
 
Chernak and his wife put much of the blame on their former lawyer, Speaker of the House David Ralston.
 
State bar investigators agree, filing a petition with the state Supreme Court Thursday, accusing Ralston of violating nine rules of professional conduct, including having a conflict of interest, not communicating, not expediting the case, and misusing funds.
 
“When I confronted him on it, his comment was, ‘If you don’t like it, fire me,’” Chernak said.
 
The Chernaks said they tried, but Ralston refused to give up the file.
 
State bar investigators said time after time, Ralston put his duties as speaker of the house above his clients, using what’s called legislative leave.
 
The Chernaks’ current lawyer showed Thomas letter after letter the Chernaks wrote asking Ralston for help, only to get replies where Ralston confirms he sent them $22,000 in advance of any settlement. Investigators said that's improper.
 
“It's just lingered past an explanation, and if you can't do your clients any better than that, then you need to give the case to someone else,” attorney Barbara Cole said.
 
Ralston's spokesman released a statement Thursday night saying the speaker "takes any charges about his professional conduct as an attorney very seriously. While he will continue to vigorously defend his professional reputation against these accusations of technical violations of State Bar rules, he will do so by continuing to fully cooperate with the investigation."
 
“He doesn't realize what he's put me through. And for him to have some grief and headache from it, it satisfies me,” Chernak said.

The allegations could end up with Ralston being disbarred. Ralston faces no opposition in the November race.

Georgia House Republican Caucus Secretary/Treasurer Allan Peake released a statement Saturday:

"I can assure you with absolute certainty that there will not be any attempt today, tomorrow, next year or anytime in my lifetime to elect someone besides David Ralston as the Speaker of the Georgia House.  Because of his character, wisdom, and fair leadership, he has earned that position as long as he wants it. And I am certain I speak for the overwhelming majority of my colleagues. There will be NO attempt to replace him."