OPINION AND ORDER
to SGR 3.480(2),  Movant, Rachelle Nichole Howell, moves
this Court to enter a negotiated sanction resolving the
pending disciplinary proceeding against her (KBA File No.
17-DIS-0147) by imposing a thirty-day suspension. The KBA has
no objection. Finding this sanction to be the appropriate
discipline for her misconduct, we grant Howell's motion.
was admitted to the practice of law in the Commonwealth of
Kentucky on October 7, 2003. Her Kentucky Bar Association
(KBA) number is 89867 and her current bar roster address is
305 Circle Drive, Shepherdsville, Kentucky 40165.
disciplinary history includes a private admonition in 2010
for failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness
in representing several clients and failing to keep those
clients reasonably informed about the status of their
matters. Further, she had a private admonition in 2015 for
failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in
representing a client, for disobeying an obligation under the
rules of a tribunal, and for improperly providing financial
assistance to a client for pending litigation. A private
admonition with conditions was also issued in 2016 for
failing to act with reasonable diligence and promptness in
representing a client, for failing to promptly comply with a
reasonable request for information, and for failing to take
reasonable steps to protect the client's interest upon
termination of representation by failing to refund the
unearned advance-fee payment.
Court rendered an opinion regarding Howell, Kentucky Bar
Association v. Rachelle Nichole Howell,
2018-SC-000438-KB, on March 14, 2019. In that case, we found
Howell guilty of violating numerous Supreme Court Rules.
Therein, the KBA consolidated ten files (a total of
thirty-one counts) against Howell, and we found that she
violated numerous ethical rules. We suspended Howell for
one-hundred-eighty-one days due to those violations. She is
to remain suspended pursuant to that order until such time
she is reinstated to the practice of law by order of this
Court pursuant to SCR 3.510.
to the facts of the case at bar, in February 2017, Leighana
Skaggs hired Howell to file an action to establish custody
and visitation for a minor child ahead of a planned
relocation. Howell quoted a fee of $1, 000 to Skaggs, who
paid Howell a total of $925. Howell neither deposited the
payments into an escrow account nor obtained a signed fee
agreement with Skaggs as required by SCR
3.130(1.5)(f). On February 15, 2017, Howell filed a
custody petition in Jefferson Family Court. Her attempts to
serve the opposing party were unsuccessful. Until Howell
stopped returning her messages, Skaggs maintained regular
contact with Howell regarding the status of service on the
opposing party and provided Howell with the party's work
address to aid with service. Howell took no action.
April 10, 2017, Howell requested Skaggs pay $75 to hire a
special bailiff and Skaggs asserts she made the payment.
Howell did not hire the bailiff. Although Howell does not
dispute that Skaggs paid for a special bailiff, Howell
insists she does not recall receiving the payment. The last
communication Skaggs received from Howell was an email dated
April 10, 2017. On April 26, 2017, after not hearing from
Howell, Skaggs went to the address where she believed
Howell's office was located. Upon arriving at the
address, Skaggs was informed that although Howell's
website stated her office was at that location, Howell had
not worked there since late 2015.
emailed Howell on April 26 and April 27, 2017. In the April
27 email, she requested a refund and informed Howell that she
had a new attorney. Howell did not respond to either email.
Skaggs filed a bar complaint on May 1, 2017, and Howell filed
a response on August 11, 2017.
Inquiry Commission issued a five-count charge against Howell
on June 25, 2018. Count I alleged Howell violated SCR
3.130(1.3) by failing to have the opposing party served with
the custody petition and/or by failing to hire the special
bailiff. Count II alleged Howell violated SCR
3.130(1.4)(a)(3) by failing to respond to her client's
attempts to reach her after April 10, 2017. Count III alleged
Howell violated SCR 3. 130(1.5)(a) by collecting $925 from
her client and failing to complete work beyond filing the
petition, including failure to complete service upon the
opposing party. Count IV alleged Howell violated SCR
3.130(1.15)(e) by failing to deposit the fee payments into an
escrow account in the absence of a client-signed advance fee
agreement as required by SCR 3.130(1.5)(f). Count V alleged
Howell violated SCR 3.130(1.16)(d) by failing to return the
unearned portion of the fee to Skaggs upon termination of
representation. Howell admits she violated these rules.
parties have agreed to a negotiated sanction, which would
result in Howell's suspension from the practice of law
for thirty days suspension with conditions including: a
partial refund to Howell's former client in the amount of
$425, which both parties assert she has already satisfied,
and Howell's continued participation in KYLAP. The Motion
also requests the suspension take effect March 14, 2019, the
date this Court suspended Howell for one-hundred-eighty-one
days. Agreeing with the parties that this sanction is
appropriate, we accept its terms and suspend Howell from the
practice of law for thirty days with conditions. The date of
the suspension shall be retroactive and will commence on
March 14, 2019.
agreeing to the negotiated sanction, the KBA cites three
cases in support of its adequacy: Kentucky Bar
Association v. Pridemore, 439 S.W.3d 742 (Ky. 2014);
Kentucky Bar Association v. Zimmerman, 365 S.W.3d
556 (Ky. 2012); and Kentucky Bar Association v.
Justice, 198 S.W.3d 583 (Ky. 2006).
Pridemore, the attorney violated SCR 3.130(1.3)
(diligence), (1.4)(a)(3) and (4) (communication), (1.16)(d)
(termination of representation), (8.1)(b) (failure to respond
to bar complaint), (8.4)(c) (dishonesty, deceit, fraud or
misrepresentation). Id. at 744. Pridemore
represented a client in a divorce and child-custody matter.
Id. Upon appeal, Pridemore failed to respond to the
opposing party's motion to dismiss. Id.
Therefore, the appeal was dismissed. Id. When the
client contacted Pridemore, he informed the client that the
dismissal was a technical or clerical error and he would have
the appeal reinstated. Id. Eventually, Pridemore
admitted he could not set the dismissal aside and stopped
communicating with the client altogether. Id. We
suspended Pridemore for thirty days. Id.
Zimmerman, the attorney violated SCR 3.130(1.3)
(diligence), (1.4)(a) (communication), (1.16)(d) (termination
of representation), and (8.1)(b) (failure to respond to bar
complaint). 365 S.W.3d at 557. Zimmerman abandoned the
client's case and did not return the client's calls
in a timely manner. Thereafter, Zimmerman failed to
communicate with the client about the status of her case.
Id. Eventually, the client sent a certified letter
terminating Zimmerman's representation and requesting her
file be sent to her new counsel. Id. The attorney
failed to timely comply with this request and also failed to