S.C. Attorney Blasts|Lawyer Commission

     COLUMBIA, S.C. (CN) – A South Carolina attorney who formerly led the state’s Republican Party sued the state’s Commission on Lawyer Conduct this week, claiming they wrongly subjected him to a secret, two-year investigation for his use of social media for political and religious advocacy.
     J. Todd Kincannon, of Simpsonville, an attorney and former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party, describes himself in the federal lawsuit as “a nationally known conservative Republican and evangelical Christian who has a highly popular Twitter account – one of the most popular Twitter accounts in the world by all measures.”
     Kincannon says in the complaint that his popularity come from his “use of sarcasm, absurdity, dark humor, parody (especially, self-parody), hyperbole and joking vulgarity.”
     He claims his political and religious commentary is no more offensive than “something one might hear from Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill Maher.”
     But not everyone is in on the joke, he says.
     “Various people, almost all from the left-wing side of the political spectrum, often claim to be offended by things Kincannon has said and often file bar complaints and other complaints with law enforcement to try to shut down his political and religious messages,” he says in the lawsuit.
     Kincannon claims these complaints fell on sympathetic ears at the defendant South Carolina Commission on Lawyer Conduct and South Carolina Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
     “Defendants do not like the manner in which Kincannon expresses his political and religious views and seek to sanction Kincannon professionally for his political and religious advocacy,” he says.
     “Defendants essentially claim that South Carolina lawyers are subject to professional discipline for any speech that offends someone band enough to motivate the filing of a bar complaint.
     “Defendants claim that this is true even for core political and religious speech. That is, defendants claim that the First Amendment simply doesn’t apply to South Carolina lawyers and bar complaints hold a heckler’s veto over anything a South Carolina lawyer might say in the realm of political or religious advocacy.”
     He dismisses this as “self-evident nonsense.”
     “South Carolina lawyers have the same rights to engage in political or religious advocacy as any other Americans and are not subject to governmental sanction as a result,” Kincannon says. “Nothing in the South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct or other disciplinary rules says otherwise, and anything that did appear to say otherwise would be unconstitutional.”
     He claims the defendants violated his civil rights, including his right to due process, by conducting a secret investigation – an inquiry that came to light when the defendants gave information about it to the ABA Journal.
     “South Carolina’s lawyer disciplinary system makes these abuses systemic, and some of what has happened to Kincannon has happened to numerous other lawyers due to constitutional defects in the South Carolina disciplinary system,” he says.
     Kincannon claims his dispute with the defendants came to a head in early July when they informed him that they believed his political commentary was unethical. He says their taking this position interfered with the publication of a book he had written.
     He seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and “all types of damages available,” on his civil rights claim. He filed the case pro se.

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