CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has issued a ruling reprimanding a Huntington attorney for his actions.
The court ruled that Kerry A. Nessel be reprimanded; that his law practice be supervised for a period of one year; and that he be required to attend an addition nine hours of continuing legal education, according to a decision filed Feb. 6 by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Justice Allen Loughry authored the opinion.
The Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board held a disciplinary proceeding that involved allegations that Nessel engaged in professional misconduct by placing small amounts of his personal funds into the prison accounts of certain inmate clients; by soliciting referrals from inmates for possible new litigation; and by refusing to dismiss allegedly frivolous personal injury actions brought on behalf of certain inmates, according to the decision.
According to records, Lori Nohe, who is the warden of the Lakin Correction Center, wrote a letter to the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel in March 2010 indicating Nessel was soliciting business from inmates and offering them money to refer other prisoners to his practice.
Nohe provided a statement from an inmate who described a meeting with Nessel where he requested the names of inmates who might be willing to discuss possible sex assault cases with him.
Nessel had received that inmate's name from another inmate, she told authorities, and offered her a cut of other inmates' settlement monies as a finder's fee, which he would deposit in an account she could access following her release from prison.
"Following an evidentiary hearing during which the Hearing Panel accepted, as presented, the parties’ joint stipulations and recommended discipline, the Hearing Panel found that Mr. Nessel had violated the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct in several respects and recommended that this court impose a number of sanctions, including a reprimand," the decision states.
Nessel did not challenge the Hearing Panel’s findings, and both he and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel urge the court to adopt the Hearing Panel’s recommended sanctions.
"After a careful review of the parties’ briefs, the arguments of counsel, the record submitted and the applicable law, this court finds that there is clear and convincing evidence to support the Hearing Panel’s findings," the decision states. "Accordingly, this court imposes the Hearing Panel’s recommended sanctions."
The LDB was represented by Andrea J. Hinerman of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Nessel was represented by S. Benjamin Bryant of Carey, Scott, Douglas & Kessler PLLC.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 13-0491