DDD's legal woes surface in campaign

The Lamar County Republican Executive Committee is raising questions about State Senate candidate Deborah Denard Delgado. The GOP committee is pointing to how Delgado has been suspended from practicing law in Mississippi.

But is this a thing of the past?  Or something voters deserve to know?

Just last year the the Mississippi Bar told Hattiesburg Councilwoman Delgado that she is being denied a chance to practice law in Mississippi because of her failure to acknowledge the gravity and accept responsibility for ethical violations that led her to not one, but five separate bar suspensions.

"We get roughly 10-15 suspensions and/or disbarments in a year's time," says Mississippi Bar general counsel Adam Kilgore. "And we have over 7,000 lawyers practicing in Mississippi."

But to understand why the bar denied Delgado's reinstatement, you have to understand why she was originally suspended.  Which means you have to turn back the clock to the early 90s.  It was long before she was ever a city councilwoman. However, Addie Rutherford says it doesn't change the fact that she was one of Delgado's victims.

"You remember things like that well," Rutherford says. "I mean it was just like yesterday."

In 1990 Addie Rutherford hired Delgado to represent her son James Rutherford in bankruptcy proceedings. James has since passed away. Ms. Rutherford paid Delgado $440 up front to handle the bankruptcy matter.

"No problem, she said this is simple, we'll have no problem doing this," Rutherford recalls.

But Rutherford says she never saw it coming. Delgado would take her money, but not do the work.

"We called and we called up there trying to talk to her," Rutherford claims. "And every time we went to the office we could never get her. She was never in.

"She told us she had filed. We called downtown, we called everywhere we knew to call and they told she hadn't filed nothing."

Why does Rutherford think Delgado didn't do anything?

"No I have no idea," Rutherford says. "Other than she took the money and did something else with it."

Rutherford says her son was never able to file bankruptcy, because they spent the last of their savings on Delgado.

But Addie Rutherford is just one of the many complaints against the now Hattiesburg councilwoman. In fact the Mississippi Bar ruled Delgado has mistreated four other clients, costing them over $13,000.

"She was ripping people off," Rutherford says. "There was three people down there when I was there. We are all trying to get our money back or do something."

In order to be reinstated, the bar ruled she would have to pay them all back with interest. The bar also suspended her for two years and nine-and-a-half months. But it took over a decade for Delgado to even make an attempt at restitution. Court records reveal Delgado paid many clients back just a few years ago.

Rutherford says 14 years after Delgado left town with her money, Delgado paid her back with the required interest.

Does Rutherford think she should be allowed to practice law again?

"No," she says. "I don't think she should be."

And the bar doesn't think so either. It ruled that Delgado failed to present clear and convincing evidence of making full amends. But what's remarkable about the petition for reinstatement are all the well-known people from Hattiesburg that thought she should practice law again: Mayor Johnny DuPree, Circuit Court Judge Bob Helfrich, Legislative Rep. Percy Watson, Youth Court Judge Mike Mcphail, Justice Court Judge Deborah Gambrell, and 20 others all wrote letters recommending Delgado be reinstated by the bar.

The bar responds to that by saying that while many of the letters praise Denard-Delgado for her civic and charitable work, they fail to acknowledge or indicate that the authors were made aware of the severity of  Delgado's conduct leading to her suspension.