Veteran trial attorney Paul Pfingst was added to Rep. Duncan Hunter's defense team Oct. 28, but awaits Nov. 25 hearing on whether he can stay.
Veteran trial attorney Paul Pfingst was added to Rep. Duncan Hunter’s defense team Oct. 28, but awaits Nov. 25 hearing on whether he can stay. Photo via higgslaw.com

Rep. Duncan D. Hunter says he’ll return to federal court Nov. 25 — his seventh trip downtown in his campaign spending misconduct case.

But this time, it’s to fight for his latest lawyer, not himself.

The Alpine Republican will counter expected government claims that Paul Pfingst should be removed as an attorney from Hunter’s team because of conflicts of interest.

Rep. Duncan Hunter confirms he’ll be in court Nov. 25. (PDF)

Pfingst, a veteran trial lawyer, was added to Hunter’s defense Oct. 28.

But the former San Diego County district attorney told The San Diego Union-Tribune recently that prosecutors have challenged his association with Hunter’s legal team because another lawyer in his firm represented three witnesses in Hunter’s case during grand jury proceedings.

Roll Call identified that lawyer as John Rice, who once specialized in public corruption cases when he worked for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego.

The government hasn’t formally notified Judge Thomas Whelan, hearing the case, that it will seek Pfingst’s removal, however.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego said Friday she had no information on any challenge at this point.

But Hunter on Wednesday submitted an “acknowledgment of hearing date,” saying he’ll appear in Whelan’s court at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 25 — a Monday.

A defense source who didn’t want to be identified said the government is moving to disqualify Pfingst as Hunter’s attorney, and “we are fighting that.”

Pfingst, a partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, told CQ Roll Call: “I’m reasonably well known around these parts for trial work but also I’ve been a candidate before.”

He said he’d complied with campaign rules in the past, “so I think that adds an extra dimension in explaining a lot of what was happening” with Hunter’s case.

Pfingst told the U-T that the grand jury witnesses have no problem with his representing Hunter.

“They’ve signed waivers, my client has signed waivers, so I’m not so sure why the government is so concerned about me being on the case,” he was quoted as saying.

Hunter is set for trial Jan. 22, 2020, on 60 felony counts involving conspiracy, falsification of records, wire fraud and prohibited use of campaign funds.

He denies charges of using over $250,000 in his campaign fund for personal items and travel. His wife, Margaret, has pleaded guilty to one conspiracy count and is to be sentenced April 13.