A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

‘Rebel’ Eric Deters’ suit to regain right to practice law makes one thing clear: his style is not his father’s

By Greg Paeth
NKyTribune Senior Reporter

In a long and revealing entry on his Facebook page in 2011, former attorney Eric C. Deters recalled stories about his father, Charles, who established one of the largest and most influential law firms in Northern Kentucky, where his clients included the Archdiocese of Covington, what was then St. Elizabeth Hospital, The Kentucky Post newspaper and Covington Trust Bank, which had been one of the largest lending institutions in the region.

The Facebook entry concludes with an anecdote about a dinner his father and mother, Mary Sue, arranged in an effort to establish a détente in the relationship between Bishop Richard Ackerman, who led the Catholic diocese of Covington from 1960 to 1978, and Vance Trimble, the hard-driving editor of The Kentucky Post, which was the leading newspaper in Northern Kentucky at the time.

Eric Deters

Eric Deters

The other guests that night were Kentucky Governor Bert T. Combs and his wife Sara, Trimble’s wife Elzene, Judge William Dunn, a former law partner of Charles Deters who became a member of the Kentucky Court of Appeals, and Dunne’s wife LaVerne, according to the Facebook entry.

Eric Deters’ Facebook post doesn’t indicate when the dinner occurred or whether Trimble and the Bishop ever reached any sort of understanding about newspaper coverage that had troubled the Bishop.

But the quiet, behind-the-scenes strategy for solving a dispute between two influential institutions may be indicative of how Charles Deters approached problems and his ability to convene a meeting of powerful people who would sit down and talk things over before either side got angry and said something inflammatory in public.

From all indications, Eric Deters never got the “behind-the-scenes” memo from his father.

Eric Deters, who relishes the nickname “Bulldog,” is embroiled once again with the Kentucky Bar Association.

Over the years, the younger Deters has been a central figure in a long list of high-profile court cases in the region. He represented a former Dayton school teacher who was accused of having sex with a student and a former cheerleader for the Cincinnati Bengals who sued a website that raised questions about her character. He also filed a libel suit against Kenton Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders over a posting Sanders made on social media.

Deters also was well known for his outspoken comments when he hosted shows on Cincinnati radio stations.

This time Deters is in federal court, where he filed suit earlier this year over disciplinary measures that led to his decision last year to relinquish his license to practice law in Kentucky, which had the effect of prohibiting him from practicing in Ohio. The suit also seeks unspecified damages from the bar association.

Attorneys for the Kentucky Bar Association are fighting the suit vigorously and have asked for a dismissal in U.S. District Court in Frankfort, where Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove has turned down Deters’ request for a temporary restraining order that would have lifted the suspension in Kentucky.

It appears clear that the bar association has no intention of caving in on the lawsuit. One motion the bar association filed asks for permission to submit a memorandum that would exceed the 40-page limit set by the court. The wide-ranging suit Deters filed is just over 60 pages long.

Thomas H. Glover, chief counsel for the Kentucky Bar Association in Frankfort and one of the defendants in the lawsuit, did not return phone calls seeking comment on the suit.

Deters said the next step in the case is a hearing on his request for an injunction that could clear the way for him to practice again in Kentucky. Deters is representing himself in the case the same way that someone who doesn’t have – or doesn’t want – an attorney can proceed in court.

One point of contention in the lawsuit is the reciprocity agreement between Kentucky and Ohio through which attorneys licensed in one state can practice in the other. Disciplinary actions also are reciprocal, which means that an attorney who is suspended in Kentucky, for example, also is suspended in Ohio.

Deters said in an e-mail that the key issue in the lawsuit is that he believes a Supreme Court Rule – the equivalent of a law that governs the legal profession in Kentucky – is unconstitutional. The rule allows the bar association to object to – and, in effect, lengthen – an attorney’s suspension because the disciplined attorney does not have the right to “due process,” an opportunity to challenge the bar association in court, Deters argues.

Deters, who acknowledged that he’s been suspended by the bar association on four occasions, said the bar association objected to his reinstatement in consecutive years. “It forced me in back-to-back years to go through an extensive reinstatement process…The problem is what they did to me blocked me from practicing in Ohio. I failed to convince Ohio to let me back without getting back in Kentucky. I had no issues in Ohio and here I was blocked because of (the suspension in) Kentucky.

“What’s worse is (that) a retired lawyer in Ohio can work in a law office. A suspended lawyer could not. So I retired in Ohio so I could work in my own office…,” Deters said in an e-mail.

He also said he tried to retire as an attorney in Kentucky so that he could continue to work in Ohio, where he has practiced for a number of years and where his law firm has a number of pending cases. But he said the Kentucky Bar Association blocked his effort to retire.

Deters said he has turned over his law firm, which has its office in Independence, to his father Charles, who still practices. The younger Deters, who is now 51, said he now works in the office as a paralegal, trial consultant, office manager and as a spokesman for the firm.

“In the history of the KBA, no lawyer has been punished more for doing less,” Deters said in his e-mail. “I have endured thanks to that (disciplinary) rule nearly two years of suspension on only two-60 day suspensions…I have had more baseless bar complaints in the history of the bar. I have defeated 61 of 67 bar complaints…Yet there was not and is not one single bar complaint of my being dishonest, committing a crime, stealing money, (or) involving an act of moral turpitude or any dastardly deed. My ‘sins’ have been technical violations which I fought or over aggressiveness (which) I also fought…What made so many clients come to me and love me turned the entire legal community against me…,” Deters said in an e-mail.

The lawsuit “also seeks all the damages he’s suffered as a result of defendants intentional, malicious and deliberate indifference to destroy him.”

“All rebels pay a price throughout history,” Deters said during a phone conversation. “You fight city hall, you pay a price.”

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  1. David says:

    Or maybe people are just sick and tired of your act, Eric. Shame on the NKY Tribune for giving this clown yet ANOTHER soapbox. He’s worn through his entire community, burned bridges, won’t pays debts and then plays up the fact that he’s the little guy getting screwed.

    No. He’s the screwer. It’s time to move on, Eric. You have lost.

  2. Robert says:

    Eric Deters is a disgraced ex-lawyer and ex-radio talk show host because he just can’t keep his big mouth shut. Deters has self-created all of his problems and yet only blames others in a vast complex conspiracy. Deters needs psychological help.

  3. Sam says:

    Since when is having a big mouth a crime? The world needs a few big mouths, let me tell you. There is so much government corruption, at every level, in this country that a big mouth here and there is a good way to keep it from getting worse. This is especially true in the legal profession. Most of the really great lawyers that I know are very quiet people. However, once you get to really know them, they’re the first to tell you that “if” they could make the same amount of money doing something else then they’d leave the legal profession — because that’s just how bad it can be. In any case, if his only crime is having a big mouth, then I say he’s done nothing wrong. Personally, I don’t like Eric Deters, but I base that on what I’ve seen and heard on TV and the radio, meaning I don’t really know anything about him, other than he does seem to have a big mouth — which is no crime in my opinion.

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