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Cassidy Hutchinson's ex-lawyer cleared by disciplinary panels after Jan. 6 committee allegations

Stefan Passantino represented star Jan. 6 witness Cassidy Hutchison before she amended her testimony to include new stories used to fuel the J6 committee narratives.

Published: March 17, 2024 11:29pm

Stefan Passantino, the lawyer who represented Democrats’ Jan. 6 star witness Cassidy Hutchinson in her early interactions with Congress, has been cleared by legal ethics investigators in both Washington, D.C. and Georgia regarding complaints that he engaged in improper conduct in his representation of Hutchinson.

In Washington, D.C., allegations of attorney misconduct are reviewed by the Board of Professional Responsibility of the District of Columbia Court of Appeals. In Georgia, the practice of law is regulated by a State Disciplinary Board, made up of volunteers who are appointed by the Supreme Court and the State Bar president for three-year terms. The state Supreme Court has final approval of any decision made by the board.    

In her 2022 testimony to the Jan. 6 Select Committee, Hutchinson alleged Passantino had pressured her to stay “loyal” to Trump and coached her responses. She made these allegations alongside several other changes to her original testimony on Jan. 6 which were recorded in errata sheets filed with the committee, Just the News previously reported.

For example, Hutchinson recounted a now-infamous story where she claimed President Donald Trump lunged at the driver of the presidential vehicle after the Secret Service refused to take him to the Capitol. This and other stories have now been disputed by several other Jan. 6 witnesses, including the Secret Service driver, according to evidence uncovered by the House Administration Subcommittee on Oversight.

At the time, Passantino challenged Hutchinson’s characterization of his legal representation and filed a lawsuit against the House of Representatives and the Jan. 6 Select Committee for damages to his business and to his reputation after the committee mentioned “substantial concerns” about the alleged conduct by Passantino in its final report, though it refrained from identifying him by name.

Now, after the D.C. and Georgia regulators launched investigations into the allegations, the investigations have been dismissed. The D.C. disciplinary panel found a minor paperwork violation but cleared Passantino of the allegations leveled in Hutchinson’s testimony.

“We are unable to prove those allegations by clear and convincing evidence, as we must,” the disciplinary panel said. "If new evidence were to be presented relating to these allegations, we remain free to reconsider them" the panel added. 

The lawyer for Hutchinson stressed that the complaints against Passantino were not brought by Hutchinson but were filed independently. “Ms. Hutchinson did not file any complaint against Mr. Passantino and has not been involved in the reviews that have been performed by the various bar associations,” Bill Jordan of Alston & Bird told Just the News.

On March 6 of 2023, a group called "Lawyers Defending American Democracy" wrote a 22-page complaint about Passantino to the Board of Professional Responsibility, which handles ethics complaints against attorneys.

“The Georgia and DC Bars did what neither the January 6 Committee nor anyone else who made allegations against Stefan Passantino did: they conducted fair, unbiased inquiries,” Ross Garber, attorney for Passantino told Just the News.

“Unlike others, Bar officials sought information from Mr. Passantino, who cooperated fully. Unlike others, Bar officials looked carefully at the facts and the law. The result was what it should have been. Mr. Passantino will continue his distinguished 30-year career with an unblemished record,” Passantino's attorney Garber added. 

In late February, the Georgia Bar’s State Disciplinary Committee wrote to Passantino’s attorney notifying him that the grievance against his client would be dismissed after a “thorough investigation.”

“After careful consideration, the Board concluded that the investigation did not disclose sufficient evidence to justify formal proceedings against the lawyer,” the group concluded. “For this reason, the Board has directed that the grievance be dismissed.”

The D.C. board determined Passantino violated one rule: failing to properly write an agreement setting out his rate and scope of his representation. The regulator in the nation’s capital did not find evidence sufficient to warrant any actions against him, the letter stated. It also noted that Passantino "cooperated fully with the investigation" and that he "practiced for 32 years and have no disciplinary history." He attended a refresher class to resolve the paperwork concern, the letter said.

According to the D.C. opinion, which was reviewed by Just the News, Hutchinson refused to cooperate with its investigation.

Hutchinson first made the claims against Passantino in a September 2022 interview with the Jan. 6 committee after she had retained a new legal team. Hutchinson told the committee that Passantino informed her “You're not lying if you say you don’t recall” as she prepared for her testimony to the committee.

“Everything’s going to be OK. We’re taking care of you,” Hutchinson described Passantino’s remarks the morning of her first testimony. “Just downplay your position. … It’s not fair that Mark [Meadows] put you in this position. We just want to focus on protecting the president. We all know you’re loyal. Let’s just get you in and out, and this day will be easy, I promise.”

In his lawsuit against the House of Representatives, Passantino argued Hutchinson’s “outrageous tale” damaged his reputation and business.

“The Committee told an outrageous tale to media sources, such as CNN and possibly others, about Mr. Passantino’s non-existent efforts to obstruct their investigation by impacting the testimony of their 'star' witness, Cassidy Hutchinson,” the suit reads.

“Unfortunately, in the interim, Mr. Passantino suffered severe consequences. He was accused of misconduct by a Congressional committee, pilloried in the press, compelled to leave his law firm, subjected to harassment and threats, and ostracized by self-described prominent members of the legal community,” Garber told Just the News.

“His is a cautionary tale for all lawyers who agree to represent clients in high- profile, politically charged cases and find themselves on the wrong side of the “group-think” of the day. It is also a story for anyone who cares about a rot that has developed at the intersection of the law, politics, and the media,” he added.

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