TIFTON -- The Tifton Bar Association should release today its plan to assist the clients of a Tifton attorney recently charged with four counts of theft by deception. Clients should be able to retrieve their files from David Roy Hege's office under conditions in his bond issued Friday.
Brian Walker, Tifton Bar Association president, said Monday that Friday's meeting included two representatives of the State Bar of Georgia because local members needed answers.
Paula Frederick, deputy counsel of the State Bar of Georgia and Jenny Mittelman, also of the State Bar, attended the meeting "to discuss pending claims in the State Bar and certain avenues the bar may take to assist clients involved," Walker said.
"We wanted to involve as many of the members of the local bar we could and discuss ways to assist clients who had been involved," Walker said. "The bar is in no way indicating that the bar has the opinion that Mr. Hege has done anything criminally wrong."
Walker said the statement from the local Bar would list more of the association's plans of assistance.
Local attorney Rob Reinhardt, president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia, said Friday that Thursday's meeting was well attended and the overwhelming concern of the lawyers there was what action would be appropriate to help people affected by the Hege case.
Since clients have filed grievances against Hege which are currently being investigated by the State Bar of Georgia, no adjudication has been made from Tift Superior Court on Hege's charges and there continues to be an ongoing criminal investigation, Reinhardt said that it would be "premature to forecast the outcome of either of these proceedings."
"However, when these types of charges are leveled against a practicing lawyer, it is of grave concern to all members of the Bar," Reinhardt said. "I am confident that fair-minded members of the public will withold judgment until these systems have had a chance to work."
Conditions of Hege's bond prohibits him from practicing law with clients, new or old, but does stipulate how he can operate in his office. It is ordered in the bond conditions that local attorney James M. Walker, III, be present with Hege on each visit to Hege's office for the purpose of giving clients their entire file. Walker is to oversee and supervise the review of the files by Hege and see that the clients of Hege's have the opportunity to receive their files in order to seek additional counsel. Hege is not allowed to enter his law office at 403 N. Ridge Ave. or remove any items from the files, including memorandums or other documents necessary to protect the interest of the client.
Special Agent Mike Lewis of the Sylvester office of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said Monday that the bond stipulation that Hege can return files to clients with Walker present doesn't compromise the ongoing criminal investigation into Hege's practice.
"A client's files are a client's property and you have to give them to them," Lewis said. "It wouldn't be an issue with the chain of custody (of the files)."
Lewis said GBI agents are continuing to interview people in the criminal case.
According to a Supreme Court of Georgia disciplinary action dated Sept. 8, 1988, Hege entered a plea of guilty Jan. 22, 1998 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia to an indictment charging him with "willful failure to file a federal income tax return for the year 1984."
To contact reporter Angie Thompson, call 382-4321, ext. 208.
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