Haney cleared by state Supreme Court

A two-year misconduct case against 16th Judicial District Attorney Phil Haney ended Friday with a ruling from the state Supreme Court that he did not violate any professional standards.

The state Office of Disciplinary Council, which investigates lawyer misconduct, had filed charges in 2011 against Haney, whose district takes in Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.

“Obviously it’s a great relief,” Haney said of the ruling. “... I believe they got to hear all the information they needed, and I’m grateful for the decision.”

At issue was Haney’s work on the side as a private attorney.

He took on the personal injury case of a woman who sued the driver in a 2007 boating accident in Iberia Parish and then did not step down from that lawsuit when he learned the driver of the boat was charged criminally by the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Haney has said he did not know criminal charges were expected in the accident when he took on the injured woman as a private client, and he recused his office from prosecuting the criminal case when he learned of the conflict, forwarding it to the state Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

He ultimately obtained a settlement in the lawsuit and received a $20,000 legal fee for his work, occurring to disciplinary board records.

ODC lawyers argued that professional standards required him to distance himself from both the lawsuit and the criminal case after he learned of the conflict of interest.

The state Attorney Disciplinary Board, which hears ODC complaints, dismissed the charges against Haney earlier this year.

ODC attorneys appealed to the state Supreme Court, which on Friday upheld the dismissal and cleared Haney.

ODC Chief Disciplinary Counsel Charles Plattsmier said he had no comment about the decision from the state’s high court, other than that it resolves the case.

“We respect the court’s decision,” he said.

Plattsmier had said in a prior interview that he believed the case against Haney was the first time the ODC has pursued conduct charges against a sitting district attorney.

Haney could have faced a public reprimand, suspension, probation or disbarment had the conduct charges been sustained.