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Kentucky Bar Association has not done enough for Eric Conn’s clients after fraud scheme

  June 7, 2019 | By Ned Pillersdorf, Opinion Contributor, Courier Journal

Next week thousands of lawyers will descend upon Louisville for their annual bar convention, which promises to be a festive and elaborate affair. In a remarkable message this week, the president of the Kentucky Bar Association boasted in considerable detail about the excellent financial condition of the bar. If he was expecting some type of standing ovation, that won’t be forthcoming from 200 miles away here in Eastern Kentucky.

The fact is that due to the shameful conduct of the KBA, hundreds of my vulnerable friends and innocent neighbors here in the mountains swept up in the continuing Eric C. Conn debacle are not singing the praises of the KBA. The bar association, which is supposed to protect innocent clients from unscrupulous lawyers, has been a lot friendlier to Conn and missing in action when it came to the desperate plight of his former clients.

It is not just the former clients of Conn and the volunteer lawyers who generously donated their time to deal with the humanitarian crisis when the Social Security Administration instituted its mass star chamber hearings. The United States Department of Justice also had some stunning and overlooked words to describe the conduct of the KBA during this continuing humanitarian crisis in which at least 800 former Conn clients lost their subsistence benefits in our poverty-stricken region.

In a noteworthy but overlooked pleading, the U.S. Department of Justice in September of 2018 took the unprecedented step of asking a federal court to appoint a taxpayer-funded receiver to deliver thousands of client files recently discovered in Conn’s seized law office while he was imprisoned on his felony Social Security fraud charges. In doing so, the Justice Department recognized that client files always belong to the clients and that a duty of bar associations is to accept responsibility to distribute the files when a lawyer becomes unavailable to do so.

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