John Bujak’s resignation last week from the Idaho State Bar ending the legal career, at least temporarily, of one of Idaho’s most controversial lawyers.
Bujak, 46, who survived four felony jury trials and a federal bankruptcy court trial without a guilty verdict, said he decided to give up his law license rather than continue to fight efforts to disbar him. Idaho State Bar Counsel Bradley Andrews filed a complaint against Bujak July 9, seeking disbarment and unspecified restitution.
“The events of the last five years caused me to reopen and then close my private practice three times,” Bujak said in an email to the Idaho Statesman. “The constant conflict caused more discontent than the satisfaction I derived from the practice of law. In the end, this is the best decision for myself, my health and my family. I have no regrets, and my family and I are very much looking forward to whatever life has in store.”
The Idaho Supreme Court accepted Bujak’s resignation Thursday and it was effective that day. He can no longer practice law.
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If he later seeks reinstatement, he must wait more than four years and four months from his resignation date. That time span is based on a standard five-year period minus the time Bujak spent on voluntary suspension during his criminal prosecution. If he had been disbarred, that also would last five years.
Bujak worked for a local attorney during his suspension but said Monday he doesn’t plan to “continue to work in the legal field.” A 2014 candidate for Idaho governor as an independent, Bujak said he doesn’t have any immediate plans to seek public office again.
At issue in the State Bar’s complaint against Bujak was his handling of a $600,000 annual contract for the Canyon prosecutor’s office to handle misdemeanor cases for the city of Nampa. The contract began in July 2009, about six months after Bujak took office as prosecutor. He resigned in September 2010, unable to pay about $300,000 county leaders said he owed from the contract.
Prosecutors in a criminal case alleged Bujak appropriated the money for his own debts and expenses rather than forwarding the money to the county as promised. Acting as his own defense attorney, Bujak acknowledged that he took the money not required for contract expenses, but argued that the arrangement was understood and approved by county leaders. He noted that county leaders approved having Nampa deposit contract payments into a “trust account” only Bujak could access and contended they only accused him after they were embarrassed by public pressure, including a public records lawsuit.
Between November 2012 and March 2013, one jury acquitted Bujak and two were unable to agree on verdicts concerning his handling of public funds. Another jury acquitted him of an unrelated grand theft charge stemming from his handling of an estate before he became Canyon County prosecutor.
The bar association’s investigation of Bujak’s handling of the Nampa contract cites violations of 12 specific professional conduct rules for Idaho attorneys.
“Had I chosen to continue the fight, I would not have been able to effectively practice law during the ethics proceedings, and I would have spent the next year rehashing events from the past five years,” Bujak told the Statesman Monday. “Resigning from the practice of law brings closure, allows me to finally put the events of the last five years behind me and move on. ... I cannot tell you which path I will take right now, but I can tell you that I have a new zest for life and am looking forward to the adventure of each new day.