Printed on: May 16, 2013

Fremont Co. prosecutor files appeal

By RUTH BROWN
rbrown@postregister.com

Fremont County Prosecutor Karl Lewies filed appeals Monday on a judge's decision to personally fine him.

District Judge Gregory Moeller had fined Lewies $1,185 on March 29 for filing petitions on behalf of two private clients against the county he represents.

Moeller deemed the actions as misconduct to Lewies' position as an elected official.

Lewies stated in the appeals that following a Jan. 22 hearing, Moeller invited him into his chambers and warned or threatened him. He said Moeller demonstrated bias or prejudice by telling him, "'You have to decide what hill you want to die on.'"

Lewies says the judge also warned him that, "'This conversation never happened.'"

However, in Moeller's written decision March 29, the judge's footnotes acknowledge the conversation did occurre.

"... While the Court acknowledges that it briefly met with Lewies in chambers following the Jan. 22, 2013, hearing, the Court merely advised him to avoid allowing a political grudge to interfere with his professional judgment," Moeller wrote. "The merits of the cases were not discussed."

The decision's footnotes also state that Moeller initiated the conversation after consulting the Idaho Code of Judicial Conduct.

Moeller cited the code, which reads, "Judges are encouraged to bring instances of unprofessional conduct by judges or lawyers to their attention in order to provide them opportunities to correct their errors without disciplinary proceedings ..."

But Lewies argues that Moeller issued sanctions voluntarily, disregarded his arguments and issued a public

decision against him, thereby causing damage to his professional reputation.

On Nov. 23, Lewies, who was elected prosecutor Nov. 6, filed petitions with the 7th District Court for clients he represented before he was elected prosecutor.

The petitions were on behalf of Flying A Ranch and E. C. Gwaltney; and Lana K. Varney, seeking judicial review of a county commission decision to establish a county highway map.

On Jan. 2, then-Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Blake Hall made a motion to disqualify Lewies from representing both the private clients and the county, according to court records.

The county filed a motion Jan. 7 to disqualify Lewies and requested attorney fees. In response, Lewies withdrew as counsel from the private clients but did not withdraw as the county's counsel.

On Jan. 11, the county filed a substitution, advising that Hall would represent its interests in the cases at issue. Three days later, Lewies stipulated to the substitution.

On Jan. 22, the court allowed newly appointed Deputy Prosecutor Billie Siddoway two weeks to file brief on why the Fremont County Prosecutor's Office, rather than an attorney of the commission's choice, should be allowed to represent the county on these matters.

Instead, Siddoway filed a notice of conflict of interest Feb. 6. She was fired by Lewies four days later, according to court documents.

Lewies then appointed Ryan Dustin deputy prosecutor Feb. 11. But after speaking with the Idaho State Bar, the Fremont County Prosecutor's Office withdrew as the county's representation on the

Ruth Brown can be reached at 542-6750.