Nevada GOP Candidate for Gov Joey Gilbert Faces Reprimand From State Bar for Misconduct

A Nevada lawyer and Republican gubernatorial candidate faces a possible reprimand from the State Bar of Nevada for allegedly harming one of his clients and hurting the "integrity of the profession." Joey Gilbert has not been officially disciplined yet, and he is fighting to keep it that way.

Gilbert is a former professional boxer, COVID-19 vaccine critic and outspoken skeptic of the 2020 presidential election results. A screening panel sent him a draft letter of reprimand over the summer alleging that he violated professional standards and bar requirements in allowing employees who were not licensed as attorneys to handle a case without oversight.

Specifically, a law student who was supposed to be supervised by Gilbert falsely indicated to a client that a petition had been filed in court when it actually hadn't. Gilbert was also accused of dropping the client after he was paid a $3,500 retainer fee four months earlier and breaching a "diligence" rule by not letting the client know sooner that he did not want to represent him.

"Your misconduct actually injured your client, albeit not substantially because he had no formal deadline for filing the petition. Your misconduct actually injured the integrity of the profession as well," Richard Williamson, the chair of a disciplinary panel, wrote in the draft reprimand letter to Gilbert.

The panel denied a motion from Gilbert on December 1 to dismiss the letter, according to filings from his attorney Dominic Gentile. Gilbert has rebuffed all the accusations in the letter and still intends to challenge the state bar, Gentile said.

"There is no final determination as to the validity of any grievance against Mr. Gilbert. A lawyer is entitled to a live hearing at which witnesses must be called to testify and be subject to cross-examination," he said.

Joey Gilbert Campaign
A disciplinary panel sent Republican Joey Gilbert a draft letter of reprimand alleging he had harmed a client by not supervising a law student assigned to his case. Above, a billboard advertises legal services on December 16, 2021, for Gilbert, an attorney and former professional boxer, who is running for governor of Nevada in Reno, Nevada. Sam Metz/AP Photo

Gentile said the draft letter was not a public record and the State Bar should not have commented on it at this stage.

Gilbert was present in Washington, D.C., during the January 6 insurrection but has said he did not enter the Capitol. He is running in a crowded primary field of Republicans hoping to unseat Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak in 2022.

The letter obtained by the Associated Press was confirmed as authentic by the State Bar of Nevada.

The Nevada Bar appoints three-member panels to evaluate grievances lodged by clients claiming harm against its attorneys. After deliberation, panels can impose sanctions, reprimand an attorney or dismiss the allegations. If the panel chooses sanctions or a reprimand, it must provide the attorney an opportunity to review the allegations and file an objection within 14 days.

Bar counsel Daniel Hooge said the letter was unofficial and Gilbert would not be formally disciplined until the panel holds another hearing.

"While the Supreme Court of Nevada retains ultimate authority to regulate the legal profession, the Office of the Bar Counsel serves as the Court's arm to investigate and prosecute claims that a lawyer has violated the Rules of Professional Conduct. Our primary goal is to protect the public," Hooge said.

The panel's consideration comes as Gilbert campaigns throughout Nevada ahead of the Republican gubernatorial primary next June and files headline-grabbing lawsuits challenging vaccine and mask mandates.

To voters, Gilbert cites his legal work as evidence that he's the best choice to be Nevada's next governor and committed to fighting for the state.

In stump speeches he's made across the state and shared on his Facebook page, he says the legal work he's done throughout the pandemic prove his willingness to be "in the trenches, fighting," referencing cases such as Calvary Chapel Lone Mountain's ongoing challenges to Nevada's coronavirus-related capacity cap on religious gatherings.

Gilbert is part of the legal team representing that church in Las Vegas, which along with another in rural Nevada, won an appeal challenging a statewide capacity cap on religious gatherings. The 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ruled in favor of the church after the governor had rolled back the restrictions in question.

After speaking to employees mentioned in the letter, Gentile said he believes the disciplinary panel hadn't sufficiently investigated the incident. He said he was confident the reprimand would be dismissed.

"What Joey Gilbert is doing here is he's standing up for his integrity," Gentile said.

The State Bar of Nevada said it has about 9,000 active members and prosecutes roughly 200 to 300 grievances annually. In 2021, it issued 24 reprimands, nine stayed suspensions and 15 actual suspensions. One attorney was disbarred.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Joey Gilbert Possible Reprimand
A Nevada lawyer and Republican gubernatorial candidate faces a possible reprimand from the State Bar of Nevada for allegedly harming one of his clients and hurting the “integrity of the profession.” Above, former professional boxer Joey Gilbert speaks at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump at the Nugget February 23, 2016, in Sparks, Nevada. David Calvery/Getty Images