PRESTONSBURG – Judge Janet Stumbo announced her support for major changes in lawyer disciplinary process in a statement released on Monday.
Stumbo released the following statement:
The time has come for major changes in the lawyer disciplinary process so that the process is both transparent and open. The current process is too secretive and too slow. In my view, recent events in the legal community have shaken the public confidence in both the Kentucky Bar Association and ultimately the Supreme Court to police their own.
We are approaching the two year anniversary of Attorney Eric Conn’s guilty plea to a criminal charge involving a campaign money bundling scheme he organized to defraud my 2012 judicial campaign. The plea deal included a provision requiring Conn to self-report the criminal conviction to the Kentucky Bar Association.
As the victim of this crime, I was never consulted about the plea bargain, and now, two years later, Conn is still practicing law, continues to be embroiled in legal controversy, and I still do not know what became of the “self-report” to the Bar Association, if it was even made. The reason I don’t know is because bar disciplinary proceedings are too secretive, and there is no time limit to resolve possible charges or other public oversight.
In my view, situations like Conn’s are just the tip of the iceberg, and have caused Kentuckians to lose confidence in the ability of these institutions to protect the public from unscrupulous lawyers. Changes need to be made.
When I previously served on the Kentucky Supreme Court, I advocated for and eventually rewrote rules, making the process public at the point where formal charges are issued. I am now of the view that the nature and presence of initial complaints should be public record. This would be consistent with the procedures of Kentucky’s Medical Liscensure Board. I am further convinced that there needs to be a firm timetable within which complaints against lawyers are investigated and disposed of. I presently serve on the Judicial Conduct Commission. Time limitations apply to complaints against Judges. A similar rule should apply to complaints against lawyers.
If elected to serve another term on the Kentucky Supreme Court, I will push hard for such changes. The public deserves to know what to expect, and when to expect it, from its highest judicial authority. I believe that a transparent and fair lawyer disciplinary process is the best way to meet that expectation.
Over the weekend, Stumbo campaigned at festivals in both Breathitt County and Magoffin County.