By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A GoFundMe campaign in support of embattled Laramie County District Attorney Leigh Anne Manlove was launched over the weekend.
As of about noon Tuesday, “Fight Cancel Culture in Laramie County” had raised $295 of its goal to raise $20,000 to help Manlove pay to defend herself against allegations raised by the Wyoming Bar Association’s Office of Bar Counsel, according to a post accompanying the GoFundMe page.
In the campaign description, organizer Andrew Rathbun claimed the Office of Bar Counsel has launched an unprecedented effort to remove Manlove, an elected official, from office.
“Never before in the State of Wyoming has there been an effort by the Office of Bar Counsel and judges to attempt to remove a duly elected prosecuting attorney from office because they disagree with her public policy decisions, the way she manages her office, the manner in which she handled mandatory COVID-19 budget cuts, and the manner in which she exercised her prosecutorial discretion in her capacity as the Laramie County District Attorney,” Rathbun wrote in the campaign description.
The Office of Bar Counsel is asking the Board of Professional Responsibility, the group that oversees the behavior of attorneys, to find that Manlove has failed to competently fulfill the duties of her office.
Allegations include one that Manlove exaggerated budget pressures faced by her office to dismiss almost 1,000 cases in Laramie County and another that she improperly blamed police for errors that led to the release of two men accused of violent crimes.
The Office of Bar Counsel is asking the BPR to recommend disciplinary action against Manlove. Any recommendations from the BPR will be forwarded to the Wyoming Supreme Court for final action.
A hearing before the BPR is to begin Feb. 2.
Rathbun is raising money Manlove’s legal defense because the Wyoming Attorney General has been “unable” to fund it, despite the fact that in her position, Manlove is a state employee, he said.
In addition, as a public attorney, Manlove cannot get the malpractice insurance that would defend her against a lawsuit, Rathbun said.
“As a public attorney, a prosecutor, Ms. Manlove cannot get malpractice insurance because the AG is supposed to defend her in lawsuits brought against State employees,” the campaign statement said. “This inability to fund Ms. Manlove’s legal defense by the AG is also unprecedented. Ms. Manlove and her family have suffered significant financial harm because of this case, having to bear the costs of her defense from her own statutorily established salary for District Attorneys.”
Rathbun argued that the Office of Bar Counsel has failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove its allegations against Manlove. He also questioned whether the office is acting appropriately in its “campaign” to remove Manlove from her elected office.
“Why should 7 judges and 1 Bar Counsel have more power in an election outcome than over 2/3 of the voters in Laramie County?” he wrote.
One of the investigations that led the Office of Bar Counsel to file charges against Manlove stemmed from a letter from all seven of Laramie County’s judges expressing concern over how her office was operating.
Rathbun claimed the allegations basically boiled down to “office management matters” involving the inner workings of the DA’s office, which are within the attorney’s managerial and prosecutorial discretion.
He also questioned whether the bar counsel has or should have jurisdiction to prosecute Manlove regarding discretionary matters inherent within an elected office, including matters of prosecutorial discretion, office management and personnel management. He added whether the BPR should decline to give the bar counsel the forum in which to so act.
“This is a case that should have never been,” Rathbun wrote. “Please help Ms. Manlove, our duly elected Laramie County District Attorney, and her family, continue to fight this overreach by unelected officials who have clearly crossed a very important line and who appear to disagree with her conservative politics. Please donate to her legal defense fund.”
Manlove was an earlier contributor to the page, donating $20.