OPINION AND ORDER
Kentucky Bar Association ("KBA") petitions this
Court to impose reciprocal discipline on Heather Mary Boone
McKeever under Supreme Court Rule ("SCR") 3.435.
McKeever was admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of
Kentucky on October 12, 1990. Her bar roster address is 3250
Delong Road, Lexington, Kentucky 40515.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
September 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of South Carolina
rendered an Opinion debarring McKeever for numerous
violations of the South Carolina Rules of Professional
Conduct. Matter of McKeever, 805 S.E.2d 201 (S.C.
2017). McKeever and her husband Shane Haffey moved to
Charleston, South Carolina, during the foreclosure of a loan
on their Kentucky residence. Id. In Charleston,
South Carolina, McKeever met Betty McMichael who owned two
properties - 991 Governors Road, where she resided, and 986
Governors Road, which she rented out. Id. at 202.
Upon learning that McMichael faced foreclosure on these
properties, McKeever repeatedly offered her legal
representation, despite not being licensed to practice law in
South Carolina. Id. In exchange for McKeever's
legal services, McMichael permitted McKeever and her family
to live in the 986 Governors Road house rent free during the
course of the representation. Id.
McKeever began representing McMichael she compelled her
"to issue a quitclaim deed granting title to 986
Governors Road to Bondson Holdings, a fictitious entity owned
by McKeever and Haffey." Id. While McKeever was
granted permission to appear pro hac vice in the 986
Governors Road foreclosure action in July 2011, she took no
steps to protect McMichael's interest in the property.
Id. Instead, McKeever filed a pleading styled
"Answer Class Action Complaint, " under the name of
a South Carolina attorney who was serving as local counsel
for her pro hac vice admission. In this pleading,
which was filed without informing local counsel or McMichael,
McKeever asserted thirty-nine affirmative defenses to remove
encumbrances on the property and secure clear
title. Id. "Additionally, in an
attempt to delay and hinder the foreclosure proceedings,
McKeever falsely claimed that McMichael resided at the
property, levied allegations against opposing counsel, and
filed notices of depositions for numerous named and unnamed
the mortgage holder voluntarily dismissed its action against
McMichael and afterwards McKeever filed the quitclaim deed to
986 Governors Road. Id. The Supreme Court of South
Carolina concluded that McKeever's decision to wait to
file the deed until after the foreclosure action was
dismissed was designed "to avoid any discovery of her
interest in the property and the resulting conflicts of
interest." Id. n. 2.
2012, Bank of America purchased the entity which held the
note on 986 Governors Road and reinstituted foreclosure
proceedings on the property. Id. at 202. A title
search by Bank of America led to the discovery of the
quitclaim deed granting title to Bondson Holdings.
Id. Next, Bank of America filed its action naming
both McMichael and Bondson Holdings. Id.
Subsequently, McKeever contacted a South Carolina attorney,
Parker Barnes Jr., and requested that he serve as local
counsel for McMichael, falsely asserting that she was
eligible to appear pro hac vice. Id. Despite not
filing an application to appear pro hac vice,
McKeever continued to file motions on behalf of Bondson
Holdings and Haffey. Id. at 202-03. The Supreme
Court of South Carolina concluded that "[i]n these
various motions and pleadings, McKeever asserted frivolous or
meritless legal positions, made false statements, and
threatened civil action and criminal prosecution against
Barnes, opposing counsel, the presiding judge, and the clerk
of court." Id. at 203. Ultimately it was
necessary for a South Carolina attorney to make an appearance
for McMichael, who was able to have the case with Bank of
America dismissed in 2013. Id. at 202.
McKeever attempted to defraud McMichael and Bank of America
by filing two lawsuits against McMichael in Kentucky.
Id. at 203. In the first action she alleged
conversion and disparagement of title based on her false
claim that McMichael had encumbered the 986 Governors Road
property with a mortgage held by Bank of America after the
property had been deeded to Bondson Holdings. Id. In
the second action, McKeever brought suit on behalf of her
purported law firm, McKeever Law Offices, LLC, for
McMichael's alleged failure to pay $256, 000 in
attorney's fees. Id. McMichael was compelled to
hire counsel in Kentucky to defend these actions.
Id. The Supreme Court of South Carolina deemed
McKeever's actions to be "intentionally designed to
intimidate arid coerce [McMichael], and to perpetuate the
scheme to defraud her and obtain title to 986 Governors Road
free of any encumbrances." Id. Additionally,
McKeever assisted Haffey with a bankruptcy petition filed in
Kentucky for an entity he owned called Sandlin Farms,
wrongfully asserting -- that the entity owned an interest in
986 Governors Road. Id. The bankruptcy petition was
ultimately dismissed, with the bankruptcy court concluding
that Haffey had engaged in "an ongoing pattern of
delay" abusing the bankruptcy process. Id.
2013, South Carolina's Office of Disciplinary Counsel
initiated an investigation of McKeever's misconduct by
serving her with a notice of investigation. Id. at
204. Subsequently, McKeever failed to submit a written
response to the allegations as mandated by Rule 19(b) of the
Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement (RLDE) contained in
Rule 413 of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules (SCACR).
Id. Additionally, McKeever "failed to appear to
answer questions under oath, failed to produce subpoenaed
documents, and made numerous false statements to mislead
disciplinary counsel." Id.
McKeever's failure to answer the formal charges against
her or appear at her hearing before the Commission on Lawyer
Conduct, her case was submitted to the Supreme Court of South
Carolina as a default case. Id. at 201. While the
charges against McKeever were deemed admitted, the Court
conducted a hearing in which McKeever participated to assess
penalty. Id. At that hearing, "McKeever offered
no mitigating evidence or explanation for her conduct."
considering McKeever's case, the Supreme Court of South
Carolina concluded that she violated SCACR 4O4(a)-(c) and the
following provisions of South Carolina's Rules of
Professional Conduct: 1.1 Competence; 1.2 Scope of
Representation and Allocation of Authority Between Lawyer and
Client; 1.3 Diligence; 1.4 Communication; 1.5 Fees; 1.7
Conflict of Interest: Current Clients; 1.8 Conflict of
Interest: Current Clients: Specific Rules; 1.16 Declining or
Terminating Representation; 3.1 Meritorious Claims and
Contentions; 3.2 Expediting Litigation; 3.3 Candor Toward the
Tribunal; 3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel; 4.1
Truthfulness in Statements to Others; 5.5 Unauthorized
Practice of Law; Multijurisdictional Practice of Law; and 8.4
Misconduct. Id. at 204.
assessing what penalty would be appropriate for these
numerous ethical violations, the Supreme Court of South
Carolina noted: McKeever's "pattern of abusing the
judicial process, " efforts to mask her misconduct,
"attempt[s] to intimidate a former client through
meritless lawsuits, " "lack of candor with various
courts, " and her "blatant disregard for this
state's regulation of the legal profession."
Id. at 201, 204. Accordingly, the Supreme Court of
South Carolina imposed the following sanctions against
McKeever: 1) that she be "permanently debarred,
prohibiting her from seeking any form of admission to
practice law (including pro hac vice admission) in
South Carolina, and prohibiting her from advertising or
soliciting legal services in the state;" 2) requiring
her to pay McMichael for attorney's fees related to the
Kentucky court proceedings; and 3) ordering her to pay the
costs of the disciplinary investigation and formal
proceedings. Id. at 204. Additionally, the Supreme
Court of South Carolina noted that it reserved the right to
void any title to real property McKeever wrongfully granted
to herself and Haffey in violation of the South Carolina
Rules of Professional Conduct. Id.
October 17, 2017, the KBA petitioned this Court for
reciprocal discipline pursuant to SCR 3.435. The KBA requests
McKeever be disbarred from the practice of law in Kentucky as
reciprocal discipline for her debarring in South Carolina.
McKeever has filed a response to the KBA's petition and
opposes the KBA's request on multiple grounds.
South Carolina ethical rules violated by McKeever are
substantially comparable to our Kentucky Rules of
Professional Conduct. Under SCR 3.435 when an attorney
licensed to practice law in this Commonwealth is subjected to
discipline in another jurisdiction, this Court will impose
identical discipline unless the attorney proves by
substantial evidence: "(a) a lack of jurisdiction or
fraud in the out-of-state disciplinary proceeding, or (b)
that misconduct established warrants substantially different
discipline in this State." Further, SCR 3.435 is clear
that "[i]n all other respects, a final adjudication in