Quick Takes

Kentucky Supreme Court rules on two former commonwealth’s attorneys’ right to practice law

By: - June 15, 2023 5:52 pm

(Kentucky Lantern photo by Liam Niemeyer)

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday suspended the law license of a former prosecutor while reinstating another’s.

Ronnie L. Goldy, convicted in an impeachment hearing in March, may return to practicing law under a 5-2 ruling

In the case of Richard “Rick” Boling, who resigned as Christian County commonwealth’s attorney in February, the Supreme Court upheld a five-year suspension from the practice of law.

Goldy resigned in February as a commonwealth’s attorney in the 21st Judicial Circuit serving Rowan, Menifee, Bath and Montgomery counties. The Senate then unanimously convicted him in the legislature’s first impeachment trial in more than a century.

Last year, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Goldy exchanged hundreds of pages of social media messages with a defendant. The defendant had testified that, in exchange for photos, Goldy withdrew warrants and had cases continued.

The Supreme Court’s majority said the “facts in this record only support the conclusion that Goldy’s conduct, while occurring over a seven-year period, was isolated to just one person; and this conduct was bound up with Goldy’s position as a Commonwealth’s Attorney.”

The Supreme Court cautioned that it was not “pre-judging” a charge against Goldy still pending before the Kentucky Bar Association’s Board of Governors.

“Therefore, good cause has been shown by a change in circumstances to conclude there is no longer probable cause to believe Goldy poses a substantial threat to his clients or the public,” the Supreme Court’s decision said in Inquiry Commission v. Goldy. “We caution, however, that nothing in this order should be interpreted as pre-judging or anticipating the conclusions of the Trial Commissioner regarding the pending charge against Goldy, or the recommendation of the Board of Governors on that charge.” 

Boling’s suspension is based on findings that he used false information when seeking a pardon from former Gov. Matt Bevin’s office and that in another case he committed flagrant misconduct in order to obtain a criminal conviction that resulted in a life sentence. That conviction was subsequently overturned.

Six justices concurred with the Boling ruling while Justice Kelly Thompson dissented, saying that Boling deserved punishment but that the five-year suspension was too much.

The ruling said Boling had “misused his current position of trust, attacked the prosecutorial discretion of the predecessor Commonwealth’s Attorney and cast doubt on the integrity of the former prosecutor, the Christian Circuit Court and Jones’s defense counsel.”  

Boling wrote a letter to Bevin that asked for a pardon of a sex offender, Dayton Jones, claiming without proof that the conviction of Jones was a political vendetta against Jones’ grandparents, whom at one point had reportedly donated to an election campaign for Boling. Boling subsequently apologized for writing the letter. 

This story has been updated to clarify the sequence of events in Goldy’s case.

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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.