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)