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The curious case of Ben Dusing’s suspension by KBA about to be heard; is ABA paying attention?

By Judy Clabes
NKyTribune editor

As representatives of the American Bar Association are in Frankfort at the request of the Kentucky Supreme Court, with the cooperation of the Kentucky Bar Association, reviewing the disciplinary process to access its fairness, the curious case of local suspended attorney Ben Dusing is also — at long last — about to be heard by a KBA trial commissioner next week.

If the ABA has not investigated the “fairness” of the Dusing disciplinary process begun last February — nearly nine months ago — it certainly should do so before it issues its report. The case is a virtual study in a process susceptible to abuse and manipulation and which lacks oversight. A recipe for injustice.

The Tribune has reviewed thousands of pages of documents related to Dusing’s case that grew out of two interminably lengthy Kenton County Family Court cases related primarily to custody arrangements regarding his children of a former marriage and a child of a subsequent relationship with a divorced mother of two children who bore a third child for whom Dusing has claimed paternity. There is plenty that can be written about the legal circus involved in the multi-faceted and drawn-out proceedings in these matters, but that can wait for another day.

The point here is that Dusing’s experiences in family court were — in his words — “shocking” to him. A distinguished federal prosecutor for many years and an attorney in private practice in federal court, Dusing had a pristine record with the Kentucky Bar Association for more than 21 years. When he saw a culture where outcomes of cases were decided off the record and on the basis of lawyers’ relationships with staff members who decided important matters on their own, often without even the presiding judge being aware, he spoke out for those he learned were being victimized.

Dusing was on a crusade, seeing himself as a “whistleblower” for a system that didn’t work the way it should and reporting the issues to the FBI. He saw a system that served certain special interests and preferred actors rather than the public. He talked about lawyers lining their pockets through protracted hearings and the business of the court being done off the record. He met with groups of people who shared their unfortunate experiences from family court and posted numerous videos and messages on social media.

As a result, the Kentucky Bar Association received four complaints about him and, based on unproven allegations, he was “temporarily suspended.” All these complaints came from the lawyers adverse to him in his domestic cases and his former client, Mike Hild, who was recruited by one of their paralegals, Gretchen Wessels Stephenson. These are the only complaints filed against Dusing in his entire career. In the end, the KBA did not pursue charges based on Mike Hild’s allegations. Did the KBA ever question their motives or suspect a hidden agenda?

The KBA is a self-regulating entity that operates independently of the Kentucky Supreme Court with the idea that it protects the integrity of those who practice law in Kentucky. Its general counsel, Jane Herrick, wields tremendous — and unchecked — power over disciplinary matters. She does not answer questions from the press.

Dusing, who hasn’t yet been found to have done anything wrong, faces charges based on the orders in his domestic cases. Those orders are on appeal. The Court of Appeals has, to date, not yet ruled on those orders, yet Herrick has argued in documents submitted to the trial commissioner that the Kenton County cases should be accepted as “final.”

In addition, according to documents filed regarding Dusing’s upcoming hearing, Herrick is incredibly now arguing that Dusing shouldn’t be allowed to contest the charges.

Let that soak in — the organization representing the state’s legal profession is arguing that a person should not have his day in court? That person can’t refute false evidence? That person has no recourse? The KBA doesn’t believe in the rule of law?

Why would the Bar at the 11th hour take the position that Dusing can’t contest the charges at the hearing, the purpose of which is for the charges to be contested?

The KBA is not calling any witnesses to support its case against Dusing. Furthermore, it has failed to timely disclose two key pieces of evidence. There are also questions about why the “certified” record (by Kenton County Clerk John Middleton) is incomplete. Sources say that the KBA called the clerk’s office just this week looking missing evidence.

One problem: the deadline for disclosing that evidence was last week.

But the real question is — why is the KBA just now seeking this key evidence? And if the KBA didn’t examine this evidence in the first place, how did they decide to suspend Dusing?

This is surely the kind of thing that should be considered by the august American Bar Association.

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One Comment

  1. Lorrie Miller Hill says:

    Every single one of these stories involving our courts breaks my heart a little bit more. Thank you Judy Clabes for shining a light on the darkness and standing up for what is right. The people of the Commonwealth deserve better and that will only happen if those in power are held accountable.

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