Nevada AG suspected of violating confidentiality rules

By Chris Rizo | Apr 4, 2010

Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

Jim Gibbons (R)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline)-The Nevada attorney general may have violated rules of professional conduct when she publicly advised the governor not to sue over the recently passed national health care plan, a governor's spokesman said.

State Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and Gov. Jim Gibbons, a Republican, have been engaged in a public fight over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which President Barack Obama signed into law this month.

The governor has pressed the attorney general to join a group of mostly Republican attorneys general and sue over elements the law, which will, among other things, require most Americans to have health insurance.

Masto has said she finds no constructional flaws with the law, and released a letter to the media that she sent Gibbons indicating that he should not take legal action against the law.

"There is no practical reason for Nevada to join in the litigation, absent a clear and separate legal interest that Nevada has apart from those other states," Masto wrote. "We are not aware of such a reason and you have not directed our attention to one."

The week before, Gibbons sent Masto a terse letter urging her to conclude her legal analysis of the law and file a challenge.

Gibbons' spokesman, Dan Burns, said Masto's statement might have violated rule 1.6 of the Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct that states a lawyer "shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported Friday.

Burns reportedly said the matter will also "be discussed further on Tuesday," the day Gibbons is expected to hold a news conference to discuss a possible lawsuit over the law.

Edie Cartwright, a spokeswoman for Masto, told the newspaper that the attorney general didn't break confidentiality rules because the governor didn't ask for her legal advice.

"Through a letter and a press release, he demanded that she join the lawsuit and asked for a decision as to whether or not she would file this suit," Cartwright was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "She responded no, she would not join the suit at this time. She chose to elaborate on the reasons for her answer because she felt the citizens of the state had a right to understand why she decided not to join the suit."

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