Old Glory

Veteran Phoenix lawyer Gary Peter Klahr fought The Bar and The Bar won

Even though Klahr will give you chapter and verse on individual Bar officials — like Leonard Copple, the Tempe City Councilman who graduated a year after Klahr from UofA and, as the hearing officer in Klahr's Bar proceedings, recommended disbarment — really, Klahr pits himself against the entire professional organization.

The Bar, at this point, is The Enemy.

"They convicted me of charges not made. That's a good sound bite you might want to use: Klahr charges he was convicted of charges not made,'" he says, just warming up. "It's kind of like the jury coming back and saying we find O.J. innocent of murdering his wife, but we find him guilty of killing John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln."

Even Klahr estimates he's probably had more bar complaints against him than any other lawyer in Arizona. He says he had more than 300 in 34 years. Bar officials have only kept track since the end of 1996. Since then, Klahr has had 46, which, incidentally, is not a record, but certainly a significant number.

Another of Klahr's arguments against his disbarment is that people have complained about his services for decades, but The Bar had always tossed out the complaints, until now. (That's not quite true; there had been some disciplinary actions taken, and Klahr had already completed a management training program at The Bar's behest when the disbarment was recommended.)

Klahr also says that The Bar has never disbarred anyone for management problems, and compares himself to former president Jimmy Carter — a micromanager, if anything.

"They said he abdicated his practice to psychotics and criminals. I never abdicated my practice to anybody," he says.

He contends that others should be punished for what happened in his office. What about the lawyers he passed cases on to? And what, he asks, about the client who actually admitted that he signed a contract in disappearing ink, to avoid payment? Why isn't he being prosecuted for obstruction of justice — just like in Watergate?

And Klahr accuses The Bar of missing deadlines to file paperwork with the Arizona Supreme Court. "And yet they accused me . . . of breaking rules. Can you believe that?"

But that's just at first. It's not hard to see how The Bar was likely frustrated by Klahr's attempts to represent himself in the disbarment proceedings. He admits in pleadings that he's under treatment for manic depression, and some of the comments he filed sounded that way. He refers to Ralph Adams, The Bar's attorney, as "a crooked lawyer, dangerous to the public," and in another instance, in reference to a procedural move, says he "shot his wad."

In one memo Klahr gave to New Times, which details "three major lies or false findings" of The Bar, he writes:

Number 3: "That Klahr has his staff strong arm' poor clients into paying money they can't afford. This MAY refer to a time when we used a large Native American man (GORDON LEWIS) to help collect money due. In the ofc, because of his size, we JOKED about him breaking legs like the Mafia — but no such instructions were given and no such actions occurred by him or anyone else."

In any case, all of Klahr's arguments against his disbarment are meaningless when he admits, in essence, that he is guilty of at least many of the charges. Yes, he handed off cases to other attorneys, and didn't follow up. He blames those attorneys — whom he says should be disciplined themselves — for not following up with him, and blames the clients for the same. Ultimately, however, The Bar rules are clear: If you are the lead attorney on the case, you are responsible.

But should Klahr have been disbarred for such behavior? Are the character witnesses a mitigating factor, or his public service?

Steve Friedman has practiced law for 36 years, and for the past 20 he's volunteered for the State Bar of Arizona as a hearing and settlement officer. He served as a settlement officer in Klahr's case.

Friedman calls Klahr and his case "absolutely unique." He points out the window of his downtown Phoenix office toward Central Avenue, remembering where Klahr's head shop once stood. He says he's never heard as many complaints in a single disbarment proceeding as he did in this one.

The settlement officer is just a mediator, and Friedman recalls discussing the possibility of a strict plan that would allow Klahr to practice law without any management responsibilities. Friedman recalls that Klahr was very amenable, and it looked as though The Bar would agree; ultimately, however, officials went ahead with disbarment proceedings.

Friedman doesn't fault The Bar. "One of the earliest things you learn . . . is that [law] is a profession to which we're devoted, but it's also a business," he says, adding that Klahr had "terrible management skills, terrible choices of people" to work in his offices.

The Arizona Supreme Court didn't even want to hear arguments in the case. The court unanimously booted Klahr.

Justice Thomas Zlaket, who has since retired, declared a conflict. Klahr figures that's because Zlaket was involved in protesting Klahr's admission to the bar 35 years ago. Klahr says it's because he told people Zlaket cheated on a test in law school by going overtime. He says Zlaket explained, at the time, that he was wearing earplugs. Zlaket was mad at Klahr for blabbing. The former justice did not return calls from New Times.

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5 comments
motherhemp420
motherhemp420

I grew up in Phx...and fondly remember Mr. Klahr.  It was the time of the ever expanding "War on Drugs" and the Liquid Giraffe with Christine Bohling.  I never had dealings with Mr. Klahr but always knew the Hippies in PHX had a friend in Mr. Klahr fighting the craziness of "the war on drugs" and civil rights.  Thank you so much...If you don't know now, I'll tell you...You are loved just for being you...you gave all of us hope.  Peace to you GPK...

Michael Bragg Flanagan
Michael Bragg Flanagan

I was once the defendant in a civil action pleaded by Mr. Klahr. It took time out of a busy life, cost me in attorney fees although the proceedings were thrown out for lack of even basically establishing anything like wrongdoing, "I agreed to pay mine if he paid his" simply because I wouldn't have missed that day in court for the world! Can't speak for my counsel... or the befuddled Judge. The man can expound. Lawyers say if you have evidence pound the evidence, absent evidence pound the table!" Mr. Klahr didn't even need a table! I also wouldn't have missed the pretrial settlement "wunch" with Mr. Klahr... I simply could not eat a thing it was so... enuf, I personally will regret Arizona not having a Gary Peter Klahr to kick around! He was an institution unto himself no doubt! And... there may be some Dracula left in him... like Yogi said, "It ain't over til it's over!" Michael Bragg

Chamberbrains@yahoo.com
Chamberbrains@yahoo.com

Gary Klahr is in ill condition at the moment and those who have a bitterness in thier mouth need be silenced for you do not know the man who has had open arms for those in need dispite is sociable skills he was very carring and warm hearted in many ways tho different he was by all means no creep nor was he dihonest to any of you his manors were just and his services were well served and for those who deny these facts or rebuke the truth uttering false accusations let the shame fall apond every work you yourselfs do

Former Prep Employee
Former Prep Employee

I met GPK back in the mid-90's when he was representing 2 students at the Phoenix Preparatory Academy in their suit against the mandatory school uniform. I was a member of staff and was incensed that this creep obtained my personal home address and contacted all of us by letter TWICE in an attempt to encourage us to be insubordinate and undermine the implementation of the School Uniform Policy and Dress Code. Turns out that he lost both students' cases AND the appeal and the uniform policy went on to be extremely successful.

Alexandra
Alexandra

I have know Gary from the 1886,... he was alway one of hte best to know.. I was looking for him.. need to get a hold of him,thanksAlexandra Seals/ Tell him Roger Rudman was my x partner he will remember.. I think best wishes to him

 
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