Sex and Attorney Disbarment

Well, maybe the disciplinary commission…

An Indiana lawyer became a former lawyer by writing a tell-all book about a former client. Joseph Stork Smith was disbarred last week for, among other things, violating attorney-client privilege. In disbarring him, did the Supremes furnish him with a valuable promotional blurb: “The book that got its author disbarred”?

You can find and read the court’s opinion HERE:

But you won’t find the title of the book or the name of the client in the Court’s opinion. The Court is big on client confidentiality — even if the client is a public figure, and she was. So I’ll tell you who it was, and I’ll tell you all about the book.

Mr. Smith’s ex client was “Republican strategist” DEE DEE BENKIE. The book is called “ROVE-ING HER WAY TO THE WHITE HOUSE : Machievelli’s Sexy Twin Sister”.


Smith’s verbal portrait of Benkie is unflattering — if unflattering is the right word for a description of someone alleged to have once moonlighted as a “lot lizard”, a phrase that I hadn’t previously heard as a synonym for “truck stop prostitute”.

As told by Smith, the tale involves Ms. Benkie’s need for legal help with some pesky criminal matters in Indiana (where, as Denessa Purvis, she was Miss Ripley County in 1985). The residue from these matter reportedly could have been troublesome for the security clearance Ms. Benkie needed to work in the White House during the George W. Bush administration. The right stuff apparently happened, Ms. Benkie got her clearance and her job, and a close personal relationship reportedly developed between Ms. Benkie and strategist Karl Rove.

Smith describes developing his own close personal relationship with Ms. Benkie. He recounts a serious of incidence in which he loans her money under the threat that not loaning it will make her default on debt she already owes him (could she have learned this approach — if indeed this was an approach she took — from U.S. foreign aid policy?) Ultimately, Smith tells us, his financial dealings with Dee Dee cost him a family farm.

The Indiana Supreme Court found that Smith violated a number of rules of professional conduct in the book, including “representing a client when there is a concurrent conflict of interest due to the lawyer’s personal interests without obtaining the client’s informed, written consent” and ” information relating to the representation of a former client except as permitted or require.” Smith is disbarred, effective August 28, 2013 (disbarments usually allow some time for the attorney to wrap up pending matters).

I am acquainted with Ms. Benkie, though not well enough to enable me to write a tell-all (or tell anything) book, and not well enough to pass judgment on Smith’s allegations, which involve “sex, criminality, not following the Golden Rule”, and “jeopardizing the security of the United States”. I have never met, but have spoken on the telephone with, Smith, who, sincere though he sounded, is contradicted as to at least one anecdote by one of the figures in the book that I know pretty well. When I asked my source about a particular event, and his role in it as described in the book, he replied succinctly: “Never happened.”

As I read Smith’s telling of episode after episode in which he threw good money after bad at Dee Dee Benkie in response to her cajoling, wheedling and threatening, I recalled — and added to — an old adage: first time, shame on you; second time, shame on me; seventh time, I need therapy.

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I don’t want to get in disciplinary trouble with my Tales from the Trenches, so I’ll not name names, but an unbalanced client — now demonstrably deceased — once saw the obit of a person with whom he shared both first and last names. He called in and left this message: “I need Bruce to call me. I’m thinkin’ I might be dead.”

phone grave

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Broadcast journalist and recent self-portrait artist GERALDO RIVERA practiced law before embarking on a broadcasting career that took him to Al Capone’s vault and beyond.


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