CHARLESTON – Kanawha County now has an interim prosecutor.
During a special meeting Monday, Kanawha County Commissioners appointed Charles “Chuck” Miller to hold the job until a permanent prosecutor is selected.
Last month, a three-judge panel ruled current Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants would be removed from office because of his misconduct, malfeasance, neglect of duties and violation of court orders.
"Chuck Miller is one of the finest trial attorneys I know,” Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said in a statement. “He has impeccable resume that includes time as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.”
Miller, now the chief of staff for the prosecutor’s office, will take over the interim job on Friday. The Kanawha County Commission is accepting applications for the position until the end of business Monday. Public interviews will be conducted Nov. 17 to serve until Plants’ term ends at the end of 2016.
Current Prosecutor Mark Plants' last day in office will be November 14, after he decided not to appeal a three judge panel's ruling he should not stay in office.
Miller, Marty Wright, Chris Dodrill and Don Morris have applied for the permanent job so far.
The three-judge panel hearing the Plants’ removal testimony – Preston Circuit Judge Lawrance Miller, Berkeley Circuit Judge Christopher Wilkes and Doddridge Circuit Judge Timothy Sweeney – ruled that Plants’ actions constituted wrongful conduct in admittedly hitting one of his children with a belt, leaving bruises.
“The three-judge court is not making a finding that Mark Plants did or did not intentionally cause the physical harm by proof beyond reasonable doubt,” the final order states. “That finding is better suited for a jury, if and when Mark Plants is tried on his criminal charges. …
“The three-judge court is not ruling that corporal punishment of a child is impermissible as a matter of law, and this question is not before us. … The three-judge court finds striking a child with an object with enough force to cause bruising that can be seen at least four days later is unreasonable and therefore wrongful.”
To justify removing Plants from office, the judges said this wrongful conduct must “affect, interrupt or interfere with the performance of official duty.”
“This three-judge court finds that Mark Plants’ wrongful conduct has substantially interfered with the performance of his official duties, and has further caused him to neglect his duties as prosecuting attorney.”
The judges say Plants has a conflict of interest in prosecuting domestic violence allegations because of his actions, noting “abuse and neglect cases are among the highest priorities of a circuit court’s docket.”
“Not only is it a significant portion of his work, it is perhaps the most important portion of a prosecutor’s job,” the panel writes.
Last week, Plants said he won’t appeal the ruling and, instead, will open his own law practice.
“My family and I have been attacked for almost a year,” Plants said in the statement. “I love being a prosecutor, but refuse to allow my family to be subjected to this any longer.
“I’m excited to begin the next chapter in my life. I’ll be opening my own law practice where I can fight for the rights of others who have been treated unjustly.”