Thomas Jefferson costume can’t save lawyer from disbarment for ‘inexplicable incompetence’
The Kansas Supreme Court disbarred an attorney who dressed up as Thomas Jefferson to defend his work on a capital murder case.
Dennis Hawver lost his license to practice law Nov. 14 for violating the state’s rules for professional conduct while defending Phillip Cheatham in a 2005 double-murder case that resulted in a death sentence.
The justices acted on recommendations of a state review board to find that Hawver violated rules on conflict of interest, “inexplicable incompetence,” prejudicial conduct, and professional fitness.
The 71-year-old Hawver wore a white wig and 1700s-style dress to impersonate the Founding Father and third president during his Supreme Court hearing in September.
During the hearing, Hawver claimed the court was violating his constitutional rights and then pounded the lectern with his hands, shouting, “I am incompetent!”
He also wore the costume during unsuccessful campaigns for U.S. Congress as a libertarian in 2000 and 2004 and for governor in 2002 as a Republican.
Hawver filed a federal lawsuit in September against the state supreme court, arguing his First Amendment rights were violated during the disciplinary hearing.
“I hold the court itself in great respect,” said Hawver, who began practicing law in 1975. “I hold the members of the court in complete contempt. It seems obvious the United States Constitution no longer applies in Kansas.”
Hawver’s former client is facing a retrial in the shooting deaths of two women in 2005.
The former attorney knew of a possible alibi that would have placed Cheatham in Chicago at the time of the slayings in Topeka but did nothing to develop it for a defense, court officials said.
He also did not know how to trace the location of Cheatham’s cell phone calls to show he might have been outside Topeka when the women were killed.
Court officials said Hawver apparently believed an agreement signed by Cheatham would release him from possible disciplinary action.
Cheatham, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death, said he doesn’t hold any ill will toward Hawver.
“He’s a good dude,” Cheatham said. “He was just in over his head.”
Watch Hawver defend himself during the disciplinary hearing in this video posted online by DontMissSeen: