State senate candidate opens up about past problems

FRANKFORT — State Rep. Robin Webb, the Democratic candidate for a hotly contested open state Senate seat, wants to spend the next month talking about what she has done in the legislature in the last decade and what she will do in the future.

But this week, Webb spent time talking about other experiences — including the temporary suspension of her law license, domestic abuse and bankruptcy.

Webb, 48, a Grayson lawyer, will face Greenup County dermatologist Dr. Jack Ditty in the Aug. 25 special election for the seat in northeastern Kentucky.

In 1994, Webb's legal license was temporarily suspended for failure to pay dues to the Kentucky Bar Association. It was reinstated in 1996.

In court documents included in the reinstatement order, two private bar association reprimands that are not typically released were included. Webb was privately admonished after a client complained that she didn't communicate well with her clients in coal-company litigation. A second reprimand involved missing the deadline for appealing a client's case in 1994.

Webb said Wednesday that in the early 1990s, she was struggling with medical problems and an abusive relationship. She took a leave of absence from her solo practice in Hazard because she was medically disabled, she said.

"I was trying to practice and work while dealing with all these medical problems," Webb said. "Those are all technical things from being disabled and being a lone practitioner," Webb said.

On the advice of her doctors, Webb said, she quit paying her legal dues to concentrate on getting well. When she felt able to work, she filed an application to be reinstated. The KBA governing board voted 13-0 to reinstate her, saying that there were mitigating circumstances.

In the early 1990s, Webb had several medical problems, including a heart infection that meant several months of home health care. Her daughter, who is now 18, was born premature and needed neonatal intensive care.

During a high-risk second pregnancy with her son, who is now 17, she sought counseling for domestic violence, she said. Webb separated from her children's father, Troy Combs, in 1992. Combs is now dead.

She also sought psychiatric treatment at the time, Webb said. She was on medication for post-traumatic stress and depression related to the domestic abuse for several years, she said, but she has not been on medication since her reinstatement.

"I have not felt the need to go to counseling" since then, Webb said. "But if I did, I would go. I have always been very up front about these issues. ... I've talked about the domestic violence and the depressive illness side of this. The two go hand in hand. But I'm over it."

Webb said she filed for bankruptcy protection in 1994 because of mounting medical bills. According to the bar association file, Webb owed more than $88,000 at the time.

Webb said she has spoken at bar association conventions about domestic violence and volunteers to help other lawyers in abusive relationships.

According to the Kentucky Bar Association, Webb has had no public reprimands since she became a lawyer in 1986. The non-payment of dues is not considered a disciplinary matter.

"I've always tried to do the right thing," Webb said of her past.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader