Delays in the D.C. courts have become so excruciatingly common that it was difficult to single anyone out for this year's Slowly Grinding Wheels of Justice award. But the vote was unanimous after we heard the story of Daniel Manville, who has been waiting nearly two years for an answer from the courts' admissions committee on his application to practice law in the city.

Seems the committee has doubts about Manville, a 37-year-old Antioch Law School graduate and research associate at the ACLU's National Prison Project who was convicted of manslaughter 11 years ago while attending college in Michigan.

Manville served three years in prison there after he became involved in a drugs-and-money scam and applied a deadly dose of chloroform to a man he later learned had been recuperating from hepatitis.

While in prison, Manville finished his last year of college, earned a second bachelor's degree and became a prolific jailhouse lawyer. After his release in 1976, he worked for the Michigan legislature's criminal justice committee and has since gone on to author the 684-page "Prison Self-Help Manual" for aspiring jailhouse barristers, and co-authored the ACLU's "Jail Primer."

Manville passed the D.C. Bar exam in July 1982, after dutifully noting his felony conviction on the application. The admissions committee met informally six months later and recommended rejecting him. At a formal hearing in June 1983, Manville presented 17 affidavits and 15 witnesses on his behalf, including a Michigan corrections official who flew to Washington to testify.

Manville said committee members told him this spring a decision on his application was imminent. But since then, he said, he has gotten no response to repeated phone calls.

"I've always felt there would be some type of delay, but there's a time when something has to be done," said Manville. "I think I've gone out of my way to pay for the crime I committed."

A court spokesman said the committee is still considering the matter and attributed the delay to Manville's unusual background. "You don't normally get a guy convicted of manslaughter," he said.