PARKERSBURG – In addition to some of his clients, a Wood County attorney seems to have difficulty in keeping court dates in his own personal legal issues.
In January, the state Supreme Court agreed to the recommendation of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Bar Association, that Joseph P. Albright Jr. be publicly reprimanded in the six-count statement of charges filed against him.
In its statement, the Board in June alleged Albright violated nine Rules of Professional Conduct dealing with communicating effectively with clients, and promptly replying to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel's inquiry into the complaints of the three clients whose cases were combined in the statement.
Because of their relationship, Justice Joseph P. Albright Jr. was disqualified from hearing the case.
Among those clients, was Randall Hamrick of Parkersburg. According to records, Hamrick alleges that after paying him a $1,000 to assist him in a child support case in May 2004, Albright Jr. did not talk with him for the next five months, or appear to a scheduled hearing on Oct. 26, 2006 despite "having it on his calendar."
A search of court records in Wood County shows that Albright failed to show for four civil cases and one criminal case in which he was personally named as a defendant. His failure to appear, records show, resulted in default judgment in the previous, and warrant for his arrest in the latter.
All of the cases against Albright are in Magistrate Court. Two of the four civil cases involve the city of Parkersburg attempting to collect municipal fees in which Albright was in arrears.
The city filed its first case against Albright on Sep. 20, 2002, seeking payment from Albright of $267.27. At the time the case was filed, the city alleged Albright had an unpaid police fee of $69.16 and solid waste disposal fee of $148.56.
Nearly two years later on May 10, 2004, the city filed a second civil suit against Albright. This time, records show the city was hoping to collect $683.19 from Albright for a $519.84 unpaid fire protection service charge plus $124.27 in pre-judgment interest and $29.08 in penalties through June 30, 2004.
According to court records, the city received default judgment against Albright in both cases on Nov. 19, 2002, and June 9, 2004, respectively.
Ironically, Albright Sr. previously served as Parkersburg's city attorney. According to his biography on the state Supreme Court's Web site, he served in that capacity until 1970 when he was first elected to the House of Delegates.
Trying to keep up
The two other civil cases against Albright Jr. involve him not living up to the terms of credit he established at two area retailers.
In the first case, Albright opened an account on Jan. 15, 2000, with Washington Mutual in Vienna for $1,420 to finance a big-screen television. According to court records, Albright agreed to make 36 monthly payments of $39.45.
After nearly 18 months of not paying, Washington Mutual brought suit against Albright for $720.94 on Sep. 14, 2001. Court records show, it received default judgment against him on Oct. 10, 2001.
About a month after, Washington Mutual was awarded judgment against Albright, records show placed $819.10 on credit with Horner and Harrison, a men's clothing store. Three years later on July 14, 2004, when Albright "refused or failed to pay the same," Horner and Harrison filed suit against him for $1,210.05, the amount of clothing he purchased plus $360.95 in interest.
Court records show Horner and Harrison received default judgment against Albright on Aug. 19, 2004.
Though it's unclear what Washington Mutual has done, both the city of Parkersburg and Horner and Harrison have made attempts to collect on the judgments awarded them.
Records on file in the Wood County Clerk's Office show liens have been filed against Albright's residence on Jackson Avenue for what he owes to Horner and Harrison, and the city for the fire service protection fee.
Both liens carry with them 10 percent annual interest each year the judgment goes unsatisfied.
In addition to the lien, Horner and Harrison, via its attorney Steven R. Bratke, filed a writ of garnishment on Oct. 3, 2005, with the Public Defender Services to have any money Albright receives from representing indigent clients go toward satisfying the judgment.
Warrant issued, then dropped
Finally, Albright's last recorded failure to appear in court occurred on May 3, 2006. It was then, court records show, he was scheduled to appear for a hearing in the pending charges against him for driving on a suspended license.
According to court records, a Parkersburg Police Officer stopped and questioned Albright as he was going into Magistrate Court about 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2006. After being informed his license was suspended, Albright was booked on the charges, and released on $500 personal recognizance bond.
When he failed to appear at the scheduled May 3 hearing, a warrant was issued for his arrest. Court records show Albright voluntarily surrendered himself to police, and in exchange for the failure to appear charge being dropped against him, agreed to plea guilty to the driving on suspended charge on May 4.
Part of Albright's plea agreement included him paying a fine of $253.50 by Nov. 4. It was not immediately clear if the fine was paid in full.