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In re Shepard

Supreme Court of Kansas

December 6, 2019

In the Matter of April C. Shepard, Respondent.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN DISCIPLINE

          Todd N. Thompson, appointed disciplinary counsel for the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters, argued the cause and was on the brief for the petitioner.

          James G. Chappas, of James G. Chappas, Chartered, of Topeka, argued the cause and was on the brief for the respondent.

          PER CURIAM

         This is an original proceeding in discipline filed by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters (Board) against the respondent, April C. Shepard, a court reporter at the Wyandotte County District Court who previously served in that capacity at the Shawnee County District Court.

         On June 13, 2018, the appointed counsel for the Board filed a formal complaint against the respondent alleging she failed to maintain impartiality toward a defendant in a criminal trial she reported, a violation of Rules Adopted by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters, Board Rules No. 9.F.9. (2019 Kan. S.Ct. R. 419). On July 19, 2018, the respondent timely filed an answer to the formal complaint. In her answer, the respondent admitted to "the allegations contained in all paragraphs of the Formal Complaint."

         On January 2, 2019, the Board filed an order approving a proposed cease and desist order submitted by the respondent's attorney and the Board's appointed counsel. In its order the Board scheduled a hearing to determine whether the cease and desist order should be private or public.

         On April 11, 2019, a hearing was held on the formal complaint before a panel of the Board. Respondent appeared in person and by her counsel. The hearing panel heard argument on whether the agreed upon cease and desist order would be private or whether the Board would recommend discipline to the Kansas Supreme Court.

         Upon conclusion of the hearing, the panel took the matter under advisement. On May 20, 2019, the panel issued its findings and unanimous recommendation. [Note: The panel refers to Rule 366, which was repealed in 1982; however, the correct cite should be to the Rules Adopted by the State Board of Examiners of Court Reporters, Board Rules Nos. 1-9.]

         "Board Recommendation Concerning Discipline

         "1. Respondent previously worked at the Shawnee County District Court.

         "2. In 2012, while working in Shawnee County, Respondent was a court reporter for the highly publicized murder trial of Dana Chandler.

         "3. Chandler was convicted of killing her ex-husband and his girlfriend. The conviction was appealed, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, insufficient evidence, and prejudicial publicity.

         "4. An article in the Topeka Capital Journal on October 29, 2017, discussed the murder, conviction, and appeal, and included alleged Facebook quotes from Respondent. Specifically, the article attributed to Respondent the following comments about the Chandler trial:

'Were you there listening to it? I was,' said April Shepard, a court reporter who worked the Chandler trial. 'I will not say that I agree with everything Jacqie Spradling said or did, but it didn't change anything. Dana Chandler is not innocent. She may get a new trial, but the outcome will be the same. No one else would've done this but Dana Chandler.'

         "5. Copies of screen shots from Facebook that are attributed to Respondent include the following (some dates may not be accurate):

'a. Oh, stop. Dana Chandler is not innocent. She may get a new trial but the outcome will be the same. (April 7, 2016)
'b. No one else would've done this but Dana Chandler. (April 18, 2016)
Well, I can tell you that it won't be that judge because JUDGE PARRISH is a fair judge and I know her well. Just because he says this doesn't make it so. Were you there listening to it, I was. I will not say that I agreed with everything Jackie Spradling said or did, but it didn't change anything. (April 19, 2016)
'c. I don't believe Jackie [S]pradling lied. (August 2016)
'd. Look, I was there, I was the court reporter for that trial and, yes, Jackie pushed a little too far at times, but there was nothing more damning than those telephone jail calls between Dana Chandler and her sister Shirley and that's what changed it for everyone if they thought she didn't do it before. The fact of the matter is she's the only one that could have done it and would have done it. She had a major axe to grind with Karen Harkness and Mike Sisco for she stalked them repeatedly. (January 2017)
'e. It's not that wrong if you think about how many cases there are. They're more right than they are ...

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