(CN) -The Nevada State Bar can continue investigating a Law Vegas lawyer for comments he allegedly made about Nevada’s attorney general while he runs for that office, a federal judge ruled. The investigation stems from comments Republican Jacob Hafter is accused of making about possible misconduct by his Democratic opponent, incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto.
Hafter said his alleged comments about Masto were protected as political speech, but U.S. District Judge Philip Pro said the Bar is obligated to investigate the allegations, even if it causes him political fallout.
“Even if the statements are core political speech, Nevada has a compelling interest in governing the conduct of attorneys in the state,” Pro wrote.
Pro continued: “That the speech in question is political does not give an attorney license to make false statements or excuse the attorney from compliance with the rules of professional conduct, a point with which Hafter agreed at the hearing. “Hafter contends he should not even have to defend himself from these charges because he never made a false statement. But that is the very question the Bar is investigating, and it must have the prerogative to conduct that investigation.”
Pro also declined to toss Hafter’s lawsuit against the attorneys heading the investigation. That means Hafter can pursue his lawsuit in federal court.