SAN FRANCISCO — The California State Bar has asked for independent counsel James McKay's report on Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III so it can look into possible violation of the state's attorney ethics code, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
"We have requested a copy of the report," said Ann Charles of the State Bar. "We intend to review the report and take whatever action is appropriate."
Meese practiced law in California and was an Alameda County deputy district attorney before going on to Sacramento to serve then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and later serving Reagan in Washington.
He maintained membership in the State Bar, which regulates and disciplines attorneys found guilty of misconduct.
Charles said the first decision by the Bar will be whether to conduct a full investigation of Meese. If an ethics investigation is undertaken, it could take up to six months to complete, although the Bar can act quicker, she said.
Under California's Code of Professional Conduct for lawyers, there does not need to be a violation of any law for an investigation. Any subsequent discipline recommendation goes to the California Supreme Court for review.
The Bar has a range of potential punishments open to it for ethical misconduct, ranging from permanent disbarment from practice of law for acts involving moral turpitude to the least severe penalty, a letter of public reprimand.
One widely accepted ethical canon the Bar will take into account calls for avoiding "the appearance of impropriety."
The McKay report concluded Meese "probably violated" two federal tax laws and a conflict-of-interest statute. But McKay said prosecution was not warranted because there was no evidence that Meese was motivated by personal gain or self-interest.
Meese's alleged violations included filing a "materially false tax return" and failure to pay more than $4,000 in taxes. He was also accused of participating in discussions of restrictions on regional Bell telephone companies, in which he owned $14,000 in stock.
McKay found insufficient evidence to seek indictment for Meese's roles in either the Wedtech influence-peddling scandal or a $1-billion Iraqi pipeline deal, both linked to his close friend, San Francisco attorney E. Robert Wallach.