Paul Douglas

Paul Douglas

Former Nebraska Attorney General Paul L. Douglas died Monday at 85.

Douglas was Lancaster County attorney from 1960 to 1974 and attorney general for the state from 1975 to 1984, when he left office after being convicted of felony perjury in the wake of the collapse of Commonwealth Savings Co.

The industrial loan and investment company failed Nov. 1, 1983, and four months later, the Nebraska Legislature voted to impeach Douglas on allegations he misrepresented payments he got from Commonwealth Vice President Marvin Copple, lied to and failed to cooperate with special prosecutors investigating his business dealings with Copple and that his duties as Nebraska's chief legal officer were affected by his involvement with Copple and Commonweath.

In May 1984, the Nebraska Supreme Court acquitted him of impeachment charges, lacking a required fifth vote to convict him of betraying his duty not to misrepresent. He resumed his duties as attorney general, but seven months later, a Lancaster County District Court jury found him guilty of perjury for lying to a special legislative committee investigating the failure of Commonwealth.

After the perjury conviction, which was overturned on appeal, the Supreme Court suspended Douglas' license to practice law.

Then, on Dec. 26, 1984, Douglas summoned members of the press to a pre-dawn news conference to resign his position as attorney general.

"I maintain, and I do it strongly, that you must be a lawyer to be the attorney general of Nebraska," he said. "I have said so publicly, and I firmly believe that to be the law. To think otherwise is ludicrous."

He was succeeded as attorney general by Robert M. Spire, who was appointed by then-Gov. Bob Kerrey.

Douglas would go on to regain his law license and had a private practice in Lincoln at the time of his death.

"We worked together on a client some years ago ... for about a year," said Lincoln lawyer Paul O'Hara. "I thought that he was a good attorney general. I thought that he was honest and refreshingly forthcoming. You asked him a question, you got an honest answer."  

Douglas was born in Sioux Falls, S.D. He joined the U.S. Marines and served two years during World War II in the Pacific and China and was called back for the Korean War, according to obituary information.

Upon his return, he graduated from Augustana College in Sioux Falls and earned his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Douglas was a past president of the Lincoln Bar Association, member of the Nebraska State Bar Association, past president of the Nebraska County Attorneys Association, a director of the National Association of District Attorneys, member of the National Association of Attorney Generals and past chairman of the Nebraska Crime Commission.

He was a fan of all University of Nebraska sports and a member of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

He is survived by his wife, Ardis.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, 950 N. 63rd St.

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Reach Catharine Huddle at 402-473-7222 or chuddle@journalstar.com.


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