Columns » Ranger Rich

McInnis escapes discipline

Ranger Rich

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Today we'll talk about lawyers. In an effort to maintain a dignified discussion, we will not engage in juvenile behavior or make any reference to the following words or phrases: weasels, liars, bottom-feeding carp, hyenas, the widespread practice of inflating the billable hours, oil-coated ducks, mangy dogs or ambulance chasers.

Triggering today's serious discussion is a ruling by the Colorado Attorney Regulation Counsel, which is made up of lawyers who meet in Denver to share ideas on how to hide expensive dinners and drinks on an unwitting client's bill. (Steak usually appears as "consultation with possible expert witness" while lamb, veal and scotch show up as "depositions.")

Anyway, the counsel recently ruled in the case of Scott McInnis, the former congressman and failed 2010 Republican candidate for Colorado governor, concluding that deceit, plagiarism and a babbling attempt to defend stupidity don't violate attorney ethics policies.

If you're like me ... you're currently wearing pajamas even though it's noon, trying to write a column, staring out your home office window at a mule deer just 12 feet away nibbling on a newly planted aspen sapling in your yard, and hoping it doesn't hear you open the window or flick off the safety on your paintball gun.

No, really, what I meant is that if you're like me, you're probably asking the logical question: Lawyers have ethics policies?

To answer that let's go to Sacramento, where California lawmakers last week took a moment away from their usual business (telling Arnold Schwarzenegger love-child jokes) to kill a bill that would have limited the gifts they can accept from lobbyists. The lawmakers — most of them lawyers — said enforcing such a law would cost too much money.

The point here, and I am not even trying to make one, is that lawyers and ethics policies are like a Rottweiler-breed dog that has been, to use the acceptable veterinary terms, "fixed" or "neutered" or "Todd Palined." They don't have any, but they act as if they do.

McInnis, as you recall, was outed last year by our local daily newspaper, the Denver Post, for accepting huge money from a think-tank foundation to write and talk about Western water issues. His first submission was an essay entitled Musings on Water that was very well written — many years earlier by water expert and now-state Supreme Court justice Greg Hobbs.

When confronted by the Post reporter, McInnis defended himself by saying, "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." He then snuck Marilyn Monroe into his bedroom for some shenanigans.

OK, what McInnis actually did was blame the plagiarism on an "old friend" in Glenwood Springs. The "old friend," retired water engineer Rolly Fischer, denied being McInnis' friend and said McInnis was a liar.

In its ruling, the state Attorney Regulation Counsel (new regulation: rabies shots every three years) said it found no "clear and convincing evidence" that lawyer McInnis violated any lawyer rules.

To show that there are no hard feelings, McInnis last week sent his old pal in Glenwood Springs an Irish blessing that he wrote all by himself. In that musing, McInnis told Fischer he hoped the road would rise up to meet him and that the wind would always be at his back and that until they meet again, McInnis said he hoped God would hold Fischer "in the palm of His hand."

McInnis actually told the attorney ethics panel that he'd warned Fischer not to plagiarize for the water essay. Strangely, last year, when his campaign to be governor was about to be crushed by the plagiarism scandal, McInnis didn't think that was an important thing to mention.

Now the whole McInnis controversy is over. It's time to move on. Time to discuss more important things.

As I tell people all the time, in many parts of this nation, to those I touch and those who seek to touch me: Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.

rangerrich@csindy.com

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