Nunn's legal team in 'quandary'

ATTORNEYS WANT TO GET PAID FROM HOUSE SALE

aclark@herald-leader.comDecember 5, 2009 

A Fayette Circuit judge said he needs more time and information before he can decide whether to release money from the sale of former state Rep. Steve Nunn's home in Glasgow to pay legal fees.

Judge James Ishmael also delayed a decision about whether to suspend a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Nunn until the criminal case against him is completed.

Nunn, 57, is accused of killing his former fiancée, Amanda Ross. Ross, 29, was shot to death Sept. 11 outside her townhome in downtown Lexington. Nunn pleaded not guilty Nov. 19 to charges of murder and violating an emergency protective order.

Ross's mother, Diana Ross, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Nunn in late September. Attorneys for Ross and Nunn were in Fayette Circuit Court Friday to discuss the lawsuit.

Friday's proceedings focused heavily on Nunn's finances, which have been the subject of recent filings in the civil lawsuit.

Nunn transferred the deed to his home at 136 Fairway Place in Glasgow to The Scoville Firm PLLC on Oct. 16 to cover attorney fees of $200,000. The home sold at auction Nov. 14 for $170,000, and the law firm was to receive net proceeds of $137,000.87.

But proceeds from the sale of the house and any personal property are in escrow "until further orders from the court," according to an agreed order for injunctive relief that was filed in November.

Nunn's attorneys, Warren Scoville and Hailey Scoville Bonham, filed a motion Monday asking the court to release money from the sale of Nunn's home to pay legal fees.

"If this money is not released, we're going to have to withdraw," Scoville said Friday.

Ross's attorneys have argued in court documents that Nunn "fraudulently conveyed real property to The Scoville Firm and/or fraudulently conveyed personal property to Mary Nunn, Robert Nunn and/or Courtney Nunn."

"Nunn's pattern of conduct demonstrates that he intends to voluntarily make himself judgment-proof from Ms. Ross's causes of action, something Kentucky law simply does not allow," Ross's attorneys wrote in court documents.

Ross has since added The Scoville Firm and Mary Nunn as defendants in the civil lawsuit because they are the alleged recipients of the fraudulently conveyed funds, said Lucy Pett, one of Ross's attorneys. (Pett is married to Herald-Leader cartoonist Joel Pett.)

Scoville said he didn't know how to proceed in the civil case because his firm is now a defendant.

"I'm here kind of in a quandary," Scoville told Ishmael Friday.

Ross's attorneys also told Ishmael that Nunn has $550,000 in legislative retirement funds, and they wanted to know why that money wasn't used to pay Scoville instead of proceeds from the sale of his home.

Scoville said he was unaware of Nunn's retirement money until Ross's attorneys informed him.

"You could have knocked me over with a feather," he said. But Nunn has the right not to use his retirement money to pay his legal fees, Scoville said.

According to Ross's attorneys, Nunn has immediate access to his pension of more than half a million dollars.

"Despite this, Nunn has chosen to convey every substantial asset against which Ms. Ross could attach a judgment, while preserving the highly valuable pension that Ms. Ross likely cannot attach," court documents say.

Ishmael said he wanted more information on legislative retirements before he decided whether to release the money from the sale of Nunn's house. In addition to legislative retirements, Ishmael said, he wanted information about whether Scoville could represent the firm and Nunn in the same case because the attorney's firm is named in the civil lawsuit.

The attorneys also discussed whether the civil case should be delayed until Nunn's criminal case is concluded.

Bonham said it is common practice to hold a civil case until criminal proceedings are completed, especially in a capital murder case.

"It would be very burdensome" to work on both cases at the same time, Bonham said.

But Pett argued that it could be years before Nunn's criminal case is completed, depending on the verdict.

"That is certainly not fair to Ms. Ross," she said.

Ishmael scheduled the next hearing for Jan. 12.

Reach Ashlee Clark at (859) 231-1443 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 1443.

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