By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
Unprecedented media interest and a lack of available space forced the Wyoming State Bar to schedule February’s disciplinary hearing for Laramie County’s district attorney at Little America Hotel in Cheyenne, the Bar said.
In a document filed Monday in the ongoing case of Leigh Anne Manlove, the clerk to the Board of Professional Responsibility defended the $91,000 expense Manlove has been asked to pay to cover the cost of her disciplinary hearing held in February.
“The unprecedented press coverage … along with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, were both significant factors in seeking a large meeting space for the hearing in order to accommodate anticipated attendance by the public and the media in a safe manner as dictated by social distancing guidelines,” said the statement by Brandi Robinson.
The Wyoming Supreme Court is deciding whether to adopt the Board of Professional Responsibility’s recommendation that Manlove be barred from the practice of law and that she be required to pay more than $91,000 to cover the expenses of 8-day her disciplinary hearing.
The hearing in February was held for the Board of Professional Responsibility to hear allegations that as Laramie County district attorney, Manlove has failed to competently carry out the duties of her office. Among other things, she was accused of exaggerating budget pressures to dismiss hundreds of cases pending in Laramie County courts.
Manlove has objected to the Board of Professional Responsibility’s recommendation that she pay the cost of the hearing, noting the proceeding could have been held elsewhere for less.
“The Office of Bar Counsel’s willingness to expend (State Bar) resources in this way is outrageous and no doubt it was done with the full confidence and expectation that Manlove would be reimbursing the (State Bar) in the end,” said Manlove’s response to the BPR’s findings, which was filed Friday.
But Robinson, in her filing, said media coverage of Manlove’s case made State Bar officials believe a large space would be needed for the hearing.
“Our concerns regarding the need for a large hearing space were confirmed when, during the week before the hearing was scheduled to begin, (Manlove) gave radio interviews in which she encouraged members of the public to attend the hearing,” the document said.
Robinson said her office looked at several alternatives, including Laramie County Community College, Cheyenne school facilities, the Cheyenne Civic Center and various county courtrooms, but either they lacked the necessary space or were not available.
The Bar went so far as to ask or a bid from Little America in September, only to continue the search for a facility when staff members learned the cost.
“Upon learning what the costs would be, the Bar staff went back to the drawing board to find a more affordable alternative,” Robinson’s statement said.
But after failing to find a venue by November, the Bar decided to reserve Little America for the hearing, Robinson said.