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Fink v. Kentucky Bar Association

Supreme Court of Kentucky

February 14, 2019




         Leah Stacy Fink[1] received a two-count charge of professional misconduct stemming from two separate felony drug offense convictions in Clark County, Indiana and Harrison County, Indiana. Fink was convicted in both cases and was sentenced to eight years and one and one-half years in prison, respectively, to run consecutively. The KBA charge accuses Fink of violating SCR 3.130(8.4)(b). In the face of this charge, Fink moves this Court to enter an order accepting her Motion for Consensual Discipline, and the KBA makes no objection to the motion.

         I. KBA FILE 20109.

         The first of the two-count KBA charge relates to a 2011 Harrison County, Indiana, criminal case. On August 15, 2011, a confidential informant working for the local Sheriffs Department conducted a controlled drug buy from Jeremy Ripperdan, Fink's then-boyfriend, which took place at Fink's house. After the transaction, a search warrant was executed on Fink's house, and equipment used in the manufacture of methamphetamine was discovered. Both Fink and Ripperdan were arrested.

         Fink was charged in Harrison County, Indiana with dealing methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession of methamphetamine, a Class D felony; maintaining a common nuisance, a Class D felony; unlawful possession of syringe, a Class D felony; possession of two or more pre-cursors, a Class D felony, and possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana, both Class A misdemeanors.

         On August 20, 2015, Fink was found guilty of all counts by a jury and was sentenced to serve eight years in the Indiana Department of corrections. Fink exhausted the appeals process and her conviction was upheld. Fink's sentence was modified in December of 2016 so that the remaining balance would be served on home detention, which concluded on February 21, 2018. Fink remains on probation, which will conclude on February 21, 2020.

         The second count relates to a 2014 Clark County, Indiana, criminal case in which Fink was indicted for drug-related offenses while she was awaiting trial on the Harrison County charges. In June of 2014, the Jeffersonville Police Department executed a search warrant on a house in which Ripperdan, who had recently reconnected with Fink, was temporarily living. After discovering what was believed to be an active meth lab in a detached garage, officers were informed by a neighbor that a cooler in the backyard contained additional methamphetamine making materials and that the materials had exploded in the trunk of a car located in the driveway which belonged to Fink. Officers searched the trunk and discovered numerous items used to manufacture methamphetamine.

         Fink acknowledged that she should not have had contact with Ripperdan, given the conditions of her bond in the Harrison County case. She maintains, however, that she was letting Ripperdan borrow her car at the time the items were discovered and that she was unaware that Ripperdan was using her car to transport drug-related items.

         On June 17, 2014, Fink was indicted on charges of manufacturing methamphetamine, a Class B felony; possession of methamphetamine precursors, a Class D felony; and Maintaining a Common Nuisance, a Class D felony. However, Fink pleaded guilty to one count of maintaining a common nuisance, and the remaining counts were dismissed by agreement. Fink was sentenced to one and one-half years' incarceration, which was later modified to nine months of home incarceration, set to conclude in November of 2018.

         Because of her August 20, 2015, conviction, Fink has been on automatic temporary suspension from the practice of law in Kentucky. Fink was placed on temporary suspension in Indiana on January 8, 2015, and resigned from the Indiana Bar in August of 2015.

         Both counts of the KBA charge allege violations of SCR 3.130(8.4)(b), which states that "It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects . . . ." Fink violated this rule, in both counts, when she committed the criminal acts that led to her convictions in both the Harrison County and Clark County cases.

         II. ANALYSIS.

         Fink admits that she is guilty of the above ethical violations and moves this Court to accept her Motion for Consensual Discipline. She urges us to enter an Order suspending her license to practice law in the Commonwealth of Kentucky for a period of five years, retroactive from August 20, 2015, or until she has satisfied the terms of her criminal probation in Indiana, whichever occurs first. The KBA has no objection to Fink's Motion for Consensual Discipline and requests that we order the proposed discipline.

         In support of her Motion, Fink has provided proof of significant mitigating circumstances. Fink has suffered significant health problems that caused her to undergo numerous and frequent surgeries spanning from 1995 through March of 2015. In addition, Fink has shown her commitment to rehabilitation from drug addiction through a successful treatment program, her ongoing cooperation with Kentucky Lawyer Assistance Program ("KYLAP"), and attendance at AA meetings. Fink has also been consistently employed as a legal ...

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