Court Dismisses Bar Charges Against Lawyer

The Supreme Court on Thurs­day dismissed charges filed by the Cambodian Bar As­soci­ation against lawyer David Cha­naiwa, saying the bar lacked evidence proving Chanaiwa’s al­leged misconduct.

The court upheld a ruling by the Appeals Court overturning the bar’s 18-month suspension of Chanaiwa’s right to practice law.

Supreme Court Judge Kong Phirun said the bar did not offer enough evidence to support its charges that Chanaiwa violated the bar’s code of conduct.

In March, the bar suspended Chanaiwa because, among other offenses, his firm’s logo depicted un­balanced scales of justice. He was disbarred in July.

Despite Thursday’s ruling, Cha­naiwa still cannot practice law because he is contesting the disbarment in the Appeals Court, bar President Ky Tech said.

Chanaiwa said Thursday he was pleased with the verdict and would “wait and see” what happens with the Appeals Court.

Chanaiwa’s relationship with the bar has been problematic since he applied for membership in 1999. Members of the legal community have questioned the validity of Chanaiwa’s law degree, which he claims he earned in 1998 from the University of South­ern California Law School in the US.

Chanaiwa insisted Thursday that he is a member of the Cali­fornia State Bar Association. But he is not listed on the association’s Web site as an active, inactive or resigned member of that bar. Chanaiwa said he suspended his California membership in order to practice in Cam­bodia.

“He is not a member of the American Bar Association,” said former Cambodian Bar member Bun Honn. “The Cambodian Bar Association allowed him to be a law­yer, but we don’t know if he’s real or not.”

Cambodian Labor Organ­iza­tion Executive Director Seng Phally said Thursday’s ruling dealt a blow to Cambodia’s labor movement, which Chan­aiwa has been accused of working against.

“The Supreme Court should have investigated the case further,” he said. “I’m worried the Su­preme Court will lose their credit with the labor movement because it clearly violates the respect for the move­ment.”

The US State Department’s Of­fice of International Labor Af­fairs in May warned the Cambo­dian government to investigate Cha­naiwa’s union-suppressing activities.

In response, Prime Minister Hun Sen advised the Labor Ministry to try to modify Cha­nai­wa’s behavior.

one of the most difficult bar exams to pass in the US.

(Ad­ditional reporting by Phann Ana)

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