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Paying it Forward

Michael C. Manning reflects on career, giving back to where it began

Michael C. Manning

Washburn Lawyer - Fall/Winter 2020
By Sarah Towle

In his mind, Mike Manning’s biggest career accomplishment is not what other people would consider it.

Serving as the lead prosecutor on the Charles Keating Savings and Loan case or winning multiple cases against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona all made national headlines. The case he considers his most successful stemmed from helping a woman file a sexual harassment lawsuit against the executive director of the Arizona Bar Association. She was employed by the Arizona State Bar and had been the victim of pervasive sexual harassment by the executive director of the bar, who Manning described as the second most powerful person in the legal community in Arizona.

Other lawyers turned her away because they didn’t want to get on the wrong side of the state bar. He took her case and negotiated a settlement that resulted in not only a hearty sum of damages for the victim, but also the removal of the executive director thereby preventing the future victimization of other women.

“When I decided to take the case, I found out that four or five other bar presidents knew of this guy’s assaults on employees, so this wasn’t a situation where the bar didn’t know,” said Manning, '77. “They knew he was a predator and had done nothing about it, and it enraged me. I’m very proud of it because it was egregious.”

For his work in civil rights, Manning has been recognized by the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy, but his focus wasn’t always on becoming a lawyer.

He was the son of a traditional blue-collar American family who taught him the value of hard work, and he thought his future was in politics. Even at the young age of 10, he would stand on a corner in Lincoln, Nebraska holding campaign signs for John F. Kennedy, deciding to support him after he read “Profiles in Courage.”

At 21 years old, he followed his passion for politics in a run for secretary of state in Kansas. He lost, but went on to work for Kansas Gov. Bob Docking, who encouraged him to become a lawyer to advance his prospects as a politician. It was his time at Washburn Law where he developed a love for commercial litigation and antitrust law and graduated in the top five percent of his class in addition to serving as the editor in chief of the Washburn Law Journal.

He set his political ambition aside, and shortly after graduating, his work ethic afforded him the opportunity to work on some of the largest and most complex commercial litigation ranging from securities fraud and bank fraud to patent litigation. By 1983, he had traveled the world and was immersed in international commercial law.

Throughout the years, Manning built a reputation for himself as a lawyer who was regularly selected by the federal government as its lead private attorney on large cases such as litigation against New York mob-affiliated bank deposit broker, Mario Renda, and as lead counsel in the largest racketeering case in U.S. history at the time against Charles Keating in the infamous Lincoln Savings and Loan case.

“Mike’s representation of the federal government not only brought the men behind the fraud to justice, his representation opened the eyes of the federal government to the need for more government regulation and oversight and changed the financial services industry for the better,” said Carla Pratt, dean, Washburn University School of Law.

Following the Lincoln Savings and Loan case, Manning was retained to pursue Arizona’s then Governor, Fife Symington, for fraud in connection with a real estate loan. Seeking to reduce the amount of paper in the trial, he successfully tried that case as a “paperless trial” introducing evidence as electronic documents and maintaining all trial pleadings and files in an electronic format. Because this was virtually unheard of at the time, Manning his considered one of the pioneers leading the way to using technology in and outside the courtroom to create efficiency in litigation and reduce costs to clients.

In honor of his exemplary career, the advocacy suite which contains the trial courtroom in the new law school building will be named the Michael C. Manning Advocacy Suite and Michael C. Manning Courtroom. In her announcement of the naming, Pratt said “many regard Manning as the most accomplished trial lawyer in Washburn Law School’s nearly 120-year history.”

“I didn’t get to compete in moot court while in law school because of my law journal responsibilities,” he said. “I had classes in the Robinson Courtroom though, and it meant so much to me. By the time it was my second year, it was my professional theatre I wanted to run my career out of. I would go in there sometimes and just sit and think about my career and what I wanted it to be.”

Manning gave the law school $1 million to finalize the Washburn University School of Law building campaign. It is his hope that someday trials will take place in the courtroom and it will be a special place for students to learn and dream about their careers. In honor of his pioneering use of courtroom technology, the Michael C. Manning Courtroom will be equipped to conduct paperless trials using electronic evidence.

“Today, technology in the courtroom is more important than ever even in the small cases in small communities,” he said. “It’s a tool of persuasion for everyone whether you’re trying a case in Chanute, Kansas, or Tampa, Florida.”

In addition to his passion for commercial litigation, he lent his skills as a trial lawyer to seeking justice for victims of some of the most egregious civil rights violations that our country has seen in the post-Civil Rights Era. He took on the notorious Arpaio in Maricopa County Arizona. Arpaio was inflicting inhumane and violent treatment on the people who were jailed in the county; his brutality killed numerous men and women in his custody. He brought numerous civil rights claims against Sheriff Arpaio, and in 2000 he obtained an $8.25 million settlement against the sheriff and Maricopa County; it was one of the largest wrongful death and civil rights settlements in Arizona history. Several years later, he obtained a $9 million verdict against Arpaio and Maricopa County for the brutal death of another mentally handicapped inmate. Manning successfully litigated 15 additional civil rights cases against Arpaio.

“Sheriff Arpaio thought no one would come for him because he thought that no one would care how people who have violated society’s criminal norms are treated. But Mike cared,” said Pratt. “As an alumnus, we are thankful for his leadership not only in courtrooms across America, but also in making Washburn Law’s trial courtroom and building a reality for our future students.”




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