Former Shawnee Co. ADA disbarred by Kansas High Court

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 10:44 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Former Shawnee County Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Spradling has been formally disbarred by the Kansas Supreme Court.

The Kansas Supreme Court says in the matter of Jacqueline J. Spradling, it has decided to disbar her from the practice of law.

The Court said it found necessary evidence presented at the disciplinary hearing indicating she violated several rules of professional conduct and engaged in a serious pattern of “grossly unethical misconduct.”

The Court said her behavior included ignoring the order of a district court, repeatedly making arguments that lacked evidentiary support, intentionally lying to the Supreme Court in her briefs and in oral arguments, and making false statements during the disciplinary investigation.

Court records indicate the decision was heavily based on Spradling’s actions in the case of Dana Chandler, the woman convicted of the 2002 murder of her ex-husband and his fiance. Spradling had been the lead prosecutor in the case. However, Chandler challenged the conviction and asserted prosecutorial misconduct on Spradling’s behalf.

According to court records, evidence of prosecutorial misconduct on Spradling’s behalf in Chandler’s case was found in a protection from abuse order which did not exist, a five-minute phone call, a Nebraska escape route, internet searches, misconstrued witness comments and references to witnesses in the gallery.

An appeals court overturned the conviction.

Another case that had a heavy impact on the Court’s decision was Spradling’s prosecution of Jacob Ewing, the man who had been convicted of various sex crimes. Evidence of misconduct, in this case, included arguments that contradicted evidence, asserting a witness had been “low functioning” when there had been no evidence, unsubstantiated claims that subjects of the trial had been victimized on social media, and claims that Ewing had watched autism abuse and porn on his mobile phone - which agents testified they could not be sure of.

Spradling’s actions in this case also resulted in the overturn of the conviction by an appeals court.

The Court did decide to set aside the issues in the Ewing case and focus specifically on Spradling’s misconduct in the Chandler case.

“Taken as a whole, this prosecution, unfortunately, illustrates how a desire to win can eclipse the State’s responsibility to safeguard the fundamental constitutional right to a fair trial owed to any defendant facing criminal prosecution in a Kansas courtroom,” Justice Dan Biles said in the Court’s opinion.

Court documents indicate the disciplinary administrator’s office recommended Spradling be indefinitely suspended from the practice of law, however, the hearing panel recommended she be disbarred.

The Court made it clear that Spradling’s mistakes caused reversals of convictions for murder and rape.

Ewing had accepted a plea deal to avoid another trial in his case. Meanwhile, Chandler awaits retrial on two counts of first-degree murder.

Justice Evelyn Wilson, a former Shawnee Co. District Court Judge, was the only dissenting justice.

“Jacqueline Spradling is one of the most skilled, successful, and expert trial attorneys in this state,” Justice Wilson said. “Today, we accept the panel’s recommendation to take away her profession by disbarment, our most serious punishment for ethical violations. Notably, we accept that recommendation even after we have discarded lack of sufficient evidence many of the panel’s most serious findings. Even considering all of the panel’s findings, including those we now do not consider, the Disciplinary Administrator only recommended the lesser punishment of indefinite suspension.”

Justice Wilson argued that Spradling should not be disbarred over the mistakes, which she claimed were not serious enough to warrant the punishment.

Spradling resigned from her legal positions in Bourbon and Allen counties in 2021 as her law license was placed in inactive status.

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