FRANKFORT — Former state lawmaker Steve Nunn's inmate account, which includes some of the proceeds from his legislative pension, is subject to garnishment by the family of the woman he pleaded guilty to killing in 2009.
That unanimous ruling by the Kentucky Court of Appeals on Aug. 14 upholds an August 2013 Fayette Circuit Court ruling.
Nunn, the son of the late Gov. Louie B. Nunn, filed an appeal in January with the appellate court, arguing that his legislative pension should be exempt from collection by the estate of Amanda Ross.
According to documents filed with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, Nunn receives at least $1,600 in monthly pension benefits from the Kentucky Legislators Retirement Plan.
In his appeal, Nunn asked the court to return the $3,589.60 that already has been garnisheed from his prison account.
Nunn, 62, is serving life without parole at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange.
He pleaded guilty in June 2011 to first-degree murder with an aggravating circumstance and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Ross, 29, Nunn's ex-fiancée, was gunned down in the pre-dawn light of Sept. 11, 2009, in front of her Opera House Square townhouse in downtown Lexington.
In August 2013, Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael ruled in a wrongful death action instituted by Ross' estate that Nunn was liable for $24.2 million in damages, which included $20 million in punitive damages.
Nunn claimed that money in his inmate account was exempt from garnishment since it contained disbursements from his legislative pension, which is generally protected from garnishment. But Ishmael ruled in October 2013 that money could be collected from Nunn's inmate account because his pension payments lose their legal protection after being disbursed to Nunn and his family.
Nunn, who represented himself in the appellate case, could ask the Kentucky Supreme Court to review the lower court's ruling.
In court filings, Nunn said he used the money from his legislative pension to make monthly payments on a term life insurance policy and to help his daughter, Mary Nunn, pay legal costs in her role as his power of attorney.
The pension benefit, he said, is his only source of income.
He said his prison account only received a small portion of his pension, with the rest spent on the insurance policy premium and "to extend some economic benefit for his children & grandchildren."
Ross' mother, Diana M. Ross, is the personal representative of her daughter's estate.
Lucy A. Ferguson, a Lexington attorney for Diana Ross, said she was pleased with the appellate court ruling.
She also said a condo owned by Nunn in Bowling Green has been sold for $130,000 and that about $40,000 of that went to the estate of Amanda Ross. The rest went to satisfy the mortgage and other expenses, she said.
In January, Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine refused to throw out Nunn's guilty plea and life sentence. He had argued that his guilty plea should be overturned because he received ineffective legal advice.
Nunn has appealed Goodwine's ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, public defender Krista Dolan said Tuesday.
Nunn was a Republican member of the state House of Representatives from 1980 to 2006 from his native Barren County. He unsuccessfully sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2003.
In 2007, Gov. Steve Beshear appointed Nunn as deputy secretary of the Health and Family Services Cabinet. In March 2009, Nunn resigned his state position after having been placed on administrative leave a month earlier as a result of an alleged assault of Ross in Lexington. She obtained a protective order against him for domestic violence.