January 21, 2009 at 1:00 am

Kilpatrick to remain disbarred

State discipline board won't downgrade license revocation to suspension.

Kilpatrick )

DETROIT -- The Michigan Attorney Discipline Board refused Tuesday to lift an order revoking the law license of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Philip J. Thomas, an attorney for Kilpatrick, petitioned the board in December, asking to have Kilpatrick's license revocation downgraded to a suspension.

But the board said no, reasoning that it did not have the authority to undo what Wayne Circuit Judge David A. Groner ordered when he sentenced Kilpatrick on obstruction of justice charges in October.

"The criminal appeal process provides the appropriate forum for reviewing those claims," the board said in a three-page order.

Thomas said he was "very disappointed" by the ruling, which could make it more cumbersome for Kilpatrick to get his law license back. What happened to the mayor's law license is "unprecedented," and "there were a lot of people out to take their kick at him while he was down," Thomas said.

Thomas said he has not decided whether to appeal the ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court and wants to discuss the issue with Kilpatrick, who is due to be released from jail in about two weeks. Kilpatrick is serving time for false testimony he gave in a civil lawsuit brought against the city by former police officers.

Kilpatrick entered into a plea deal with Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in which he agreed to plead guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, serve 120 days in jail, pay $1 million in restitution and surrender his law license.

But whether that meant Kilpatrick's law license would be revoked or merely suspended remains in contention.

At the sentencing, Groner ordered Kilpatrick to sign an order revoking his law license. Kilpatrick's attorneys didn't want him to sign, but Groner warned that if he didn't, he would toss out the entire plea agreement.

Thomas said Kilpatrick signed the order "under protest."

You can reach Paul Egan at (313) 222-2069 or pegan@detnews.com">pegan@detnews.com.