Kanawha County man sues State Bar over ruling

CHARLESTON – A Kanawha man is suing the West Virginia State Bar for declaring that his business constitutes practicing law without a license.

Scott Wyatt and his company, Medicaid Advisory Group, filed a lawsuit June 22 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the State Bar and Executive Director Anita Casey.

Wyatt, who is not a lawyer, started his company after working as a financial planner and a Medicaid counselor.

He says he started Medicaid Advisory Group as a for-profit business that provides financial advice and planning for those in need of long-term nursing home care who do not qualify for Medicaid.

Wyatt says his business counsels people on how to develop a financial plan that qualifies them for Medicaid and helps them with filling out the application and organizing other documentation. Wyatt says he also refers his clients to lawyers if they don't already have one if legal services are required.

In 2007, Wyatt says he received a letter from Thomas Tinder, then-executive director of the State Bar. Tinder advised that the State Bar's Committee on Unlawful Practice had opened up an investigation of his business. Wyatt said the details of the complaint that was filed against him were unspecified. He also said that he was not told who filed the complaint.

On July 6, 2007, Wyatt says he wrote back to Tinder and requested the opportunity to appear before the committee and explain his business as well as answer questions. He was given that opportunity on July 26, 2007, but a quorum of the committee was not present, the complaint says.

Wyatt said the committee set another hearing for him on Oct. 18, 2007 in hopes that a quorum would be present. After several continuances, Wyatt's lawyer requested a general continuance pending the outcome of expected changes to Medicaid regulations by the state Department of Health and Human Resources.

Wyatt says he expected the DHHR to tighten the rules on financial eligibility, which would have made his business ineffective. The committee rescheduled the matter for Oct. 10, 2008. By that time, Wyatt said the changes to the rules had not come, but he again made a presentation to the committee. He says he was still not told of the specifics of the complaint.

When the changes were finally made on March 1, 2009, Wyatt says the new regulations did not invalidate his business.

However, he says Casey issued a letter to him on Jan. 15, 2009, telling him to cease and desist his business because it constituted an illegal law practice.

Wyatt says Casey issued another cease and desist letter on May 18, which he says contained inaccuracies and did not account for Wyatt's request for a detailed opinion from the committee before altering his business.

Wyatt wants a judge to declare that the State Bar's actions violate his due process rights because there is no appellate course to challenge the ruling and that he was not allowed to know the specifics of the complaint against him to mount a defense.

Sherri D. Goodman is representing the plaintiff. The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Irene Berger.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-1138

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