STITES AND HARBISON EMPLOYEE SAID TO BE RUNNING FOR VICE-PRESIDENT OF KBA. THE KBA PAID STITES AND HARBISON OVER $200,000 IN 2012 ALONE. KBA ELECTION FOR VICE-PRESIDENT AND PRESIDENT-ELECT – NOMINEES HAVE UNTIL OCT. 15TH. TO SUBMIT PETITIONS OF NOMINATION
The By-laws of the Kentucky Bar Association provide for an annual election for the offices of President-elect and Vice-president. (See bylaws footnotes below.)
LawReader is advised that current Board of Governors member Douglass C. Farnsley, will be a candidate for Vice-President. Farnsley is employed by the law firm of Stites and Harbison.
In 2012, the KBA President Doug Myers, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the KBA will pay the law firm of Stites and Harbison a legal fee “in the low $200’000’s” for their legal work in representing the KBA in the Federal Civil Rights lawsuit filed by John M. Berry Jr. and the ACLU against the KBA.
U.S. Federal District Judge Danny Reeves also ordered that the KBA pay attorney fees and court costs in the same case in the amount of $191,000. The total cost of the KBA defense is close to $400,000. KBA President Myers told the media that this legal bill will be paid by the KBA’s insurer.
LawReader sought information from the last KBA President regarding the fees paid by the KBA to outside counsel in the last two years. That same request was made to the current KBA President. Both officers ignored our request for information about how the KBA is spending our dues money to hire outside counsel.
This question is important because the KBA has nine staff attorneys in the Bar Counsel’s office, and apparently none of them are deemed able by the KBA officers to be able to represent the KBA before the Supreme Court or the Federal Courts.
From President Myers statement, it is admitted that Board Member Douglass Farnsley’s law firm was paid in excess of $200,000 in the Berry case alone this year. We don’t know how many other cases were assigned to Stites and Harbison.
The report that Farnsley will now be running for Vice-president, which will make him a member of the Executive Committee…raises the potential for a conflict of interest in future decisions regarding the hiring of outside counsel.
We are advised by sources close to the Board of Governors that the decision to hire Stites and Harbison in the $400,000 Berry/ACLU case was approved by the Executive Committee and was never presented to the full Board of Governors for their approval.
The purpose of the KBA defense in the Berry case was to uphold SCR 3.130 (8.2) which allows the sanctioning of an attorney for making “truthful but reckless” statements. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that this rule was unconstitutionally applied in the Berry case. The Court did not void the rule, it merely said that under the facts of the Berry case the rule was improperly applied.
We have no basis to suggest that Farnsley, while serving as a Board Member, voted to throw $200,000 in business to his law firm. However, as Vice-President he will be a member of the Executive Committee and the potential for a conflict will be much greater since the Executive Committee appears to have the power to take “emergency actions” and then merely inform the Board of the Executive Committee’s decision regarding the hiring of outside counsel.
We would suggest that the loss of $400,000 should result in a full disclosure by the KBA as to how this decision was made, and provide the names of the Executive Committee members who made this decision to infringe on the constitutional free speech rights of attorneys. We still hope that the KBA will open the curtain of secrecy about their expenditure of members dues money, and allow all 17,000 Kentucky lawyers to know what is going on at the KBA.
We have reviewed the briefs submitted by Stites and Harbison and have repeatedly stated that they did an excellent job, and they earned the full fee paid to them by the KBA. The point is that the relationship between Stites and Harbison and Board Members and Officers is troubling. If the KBA chooses to repeatedly hire Stites and Harbison due to their expertise, so be it, but we would request full disclosure for why Stites and Harbison was hired in this case, and possibly hired in other outside counsel cases.
We would hope that any candidate for KBA offices, including the Board of Governors, would publically disclose their commitment to inform the members of the Bar about the business conducted by the KBA. There is no rule which requires the veil of secrecy regarding KBA activities.
Anyone wishing to run for the office of Vice-President or President-Elect must submit a petition with 100 names (10 from each Supreme Court District) only between October 15 and November 15.2012.
The petition should be filed with the Executive Director:
Hon. John D. Meyers,
Executive Director Kentucky Bar Association
514 W. Main Street
Frankfort KY 40601-1812
KBA By-Laws: Section 6 – Nomination of officers
(a) Nomination to the offices of Vice-President and President-Elect shall be made by written petition as herein provided. All candidates for office shall be members of the Association in good standing.
(b) Nominations for the offices of Vice-President and President-Elect shall be made by written petition signed by not less than one hundred members of the Association in good standing, with not less than ten signatures on the written petition being from each Supreme Court District. Only one candidate may be nominated on a single petition and any number of petitions may be filed for a candidate.
(c) All nominating petitions for the office of Vice-President and President-Elect shall be filed with the Executive Director between October 15 and November 15 in each year. Where only one candidate has been duly nominated for an office that candidate shall be declared elected and the Executive Director shall so certify to the Board and the nominee on or before December 15 in that year.
b) The President-Elect.
The President-Elect shall be nominated and elected as hereinafter provided and shall hold such office until he/she assumes the office of President. The President-Elect shall endeavor to thoroughly familiarize himself/herself with the duties of the President and the work of the Association and of the Board.
(c) The Vice President.
The Vice President shall be nominated and elected as hereinafter provided. The Vice President’s term of office shall commence on July 1 next succeeding his/her election and shall continue for one year. The Vice President shall perform the duties of the President during the absence or disability of the President. If a vacancy shall exist in the office of President, the Vice President shall succeed to that office for the remainder of the term.
(h) Executive Committee.
An Executive Committee of the Board shall consist of the following officers of the Bar: The President, who shall serve as Chair of the Executive Committee, the Immediate Past President, the President-Elect, the Vice-President, Chair of the Young Lawyers Divison, and the Executive Director. The Executive Committee shall advise the President on matters concerning the operations of the Bar and provide a forum for discussion and recommendation to the Board of Governors including matters of long range planning. The Executive Committee may also act on matters of an emergency nature that may affect the Bar.
When the Executive Director becomes aware of any matter that may require Executive Committee action, the Executive Director shall immediately advise the President. The President shall advise the Board of any action taken or any recommendation made by the Executive Committee at the next Board meeting. The Executive Committee shall meet at such times as may be called by the President. 4
HISTORY: Amended eff. 10-14-10; Amended by Order 2005-10, eff. 1-1-06; prior amendments eff. 1-1-97
(Order 96-1), 4-19-85, 12-30-74; approved eff. 11-11-69; amended by Order, eff. 4-19-12