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Kentucky Bar Ass'n v. Roberts

Supreme Court of Kentucky

March 20, 2014

KENTUCKY BAR ASSOCIATION, MOVANT
v.
NANCY OLIVER ROBERTS, RESPONDENT

Released for Publication June 19, 2014.

Page 401

Abramson, Cunningham, Noble, Scott, Venters, JJ., Dennis Repenning, SJ. and J. Christopher Hopgood, SJ., sitting. Cunningham, Scott, Venters, JJ., Dennis Repenning, SJ. and J. Christopher Hopgood, SJ., concur. Noble, J., concurs in part and dissents in part in which Abramson, J., joins. Minton, C.J. and Keller, J., not sitting..

OPINION

Page 402

OPINION AND ORDER

DENNIS REPENNING SPECIAL JUSTICE.

A litany of words and phrases may be used to describe the long journey of this disciplinary case and the factual backstory preceding it, but words like " swiftness," " celerity," " dispatch," or " alacrity" are not included in the lexicon. This disciplinary proceeding and the facts giving rise to it cover a sixteen-year period: a death; an indictment; a manslaughter trial; a conviction and sentencing; an unsuccessful criminal appeal; an order of post-conviction relief based on ineffective assistance of counsel; and two sets of disciplinary complaints against Respondent, who represented the accused in the criminal case and represented him and others in related matters.

We now rule on whether Respondent Nancy Oliver Roberts was guilty of misconduct based on the nine charges brought against her by the Kentucky Bar Association. The trial commissioner found Roberts guilty of all nine counts and recommended a one-year suspension. The KBA Board of Governors took de novo review of the matter and recommended that Roberts be found guilty of two ethical violations and be suspended for 30 days. Both Roberts and the KBA Office of Bar Counsel have asked this Court to review the case under SCR 3.370, with Respondent requesting that all alleged ethical violations be dismissed, and the KBA asking that the trial commissioner's disciplinary recommendation be adopted instead of the Board's recommendation.

It was the unnatural death of one man that set in motion the chain of events.

I. Facts.

Earl Manning suffered a violent death on November 23, 1997. His will left a 160-acre farm to David Manning, also known as Alan David Manning (" Manning" ), one of his adopted sons. The will also devised other real estate to another son and to a grandson. The will named Lawrence Williams, a family acquaintance, as the executor of the estate and a local bank as the alternative executor.

Manning became an immediate suspect in the murder. When questioned soon after the crime, Manning told law enforcement that his father had molested him in the past. Manning's claim of abuse struck a resonant chord with the Commonwealth's Attorney, whose office had unsuccessfully prosecuted Earl Manning on molestation charges earlier. The Commonwealth's Attorney then offered Manning a flat five-year sentence for a guilty plea. But Manning had not consulted with counsel at that point and did not take the offer.

A few months later, Manning hired Respondent as defense counsel. Respondent was a friend of his adoptive mother and had represented the aptly-named Russell Justice, a friend of Manning's. It would appear that a part of the discussion of Manning's representation would have included a discussion of the practical effect of accepting a guilty plea. Because of past felony convictions, Manning would likely serve " shelf time" ...


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