CHARLESTON - Twenty-six lawyers soon will have their licenses suspended for failing to take mandatory continuing education.
Included is a former Kanawha Circuit judge who's a member of the blue ribbon commission appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin to recommend improvements to the state's judicial system.
The state Supreme Court on Aug. 19 ordered that 26 lawyers be suspended for failing to provide proof by July 31, 2008, they took the required 24 hours of continuing education from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2008. According to the Court's order, the suspensions take effect Sept. 19, and will remain in effect until the attorneys take the necessary education, and pay the state Bar a late fee.
Among the attorneys suspended is former Kanawha Circuit Judge A. Andrew MacQueen III. In 1999, MacQueen, who was admitted to the Bar on May 18, 1968, announced he would not seek re-election in 2000, deciding to retire from the bench with 22 years of service.
Earlier this year, MacQueen, 67, was appointed by Manchin to the Independent Commission on Judicial Reform. The task of the nine-member panel, which includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor as honorary chairwoman, is to study how the judiciary conducts business, and suggest improvements.
At least two suggestions already under consideration are the creation of an intermediate appellate court, and the a merit-based system for selection of judges.
The Commission was created following headline-grabbing stories involving the Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal from Roane Circuit Court in a nearly $500 million judgment against Chesapeake Energy in a gas royalty case, and allegations of bias against justices Brent Benjamin and Spike Maynard ruling on the dispute between Hugh Caperton and Massey Energy.
In the latter case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in June that Benjamin, who's 2004 campaign benefited from Massey CEO Don Blankenship's fronting $3 million of his own money into a independent political campaign to defeat incumbent Justice Warren McGraw, should have recused himself from ruling on the Caperton case when the West Virginia high court heard it a second time last year.
Though he initially refused to step aside before the rehearing, Maynard eventually did after pictures surfaced of he and Blankenship vacationing together in 2006 on the French Riviera. Maynard was defeated for re-election in last year's May primary.
The Commission is scheduled to hold public hearings on Aug. 28 in Huntington, Sept. 21 in Morgantown and Sept. 28 in Charleston in which the topics will center around campaign finance, judicial selection and judicial organization, respectfully. The Commission is expected to make its recommendations to Manchin by Nov. 15.
The West Virginia Record attempt to obtain a comment from MacQueen about his upcoming suspension. However, he was unavailable and did not return repeated calls by press time.
Originally, the Bar's Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission on Dec. 17 petitioned the Court to suspend the licenses of 103 attorneys who failed to provide proof they'd taken the required hours. By the time the Court considered the Bar's petition in April, the list had been trimmed to 57.
Since then, an additional 31 attorneys have proved to the Bar's satisfaction they've completed the necessary continuing education credits.
The 25 other attorneys who are scheduled for suspension on Sept. 19 are Patrick A. Bennett, Christopher A. Cafardi, Todd J. Clark, Michael J. Dempster, Stephen R. Dolly, Kevin M. Fitzpatrick, Kenneth J. Ford, Joseph T. Harvey, Roy C. Howell, Paul R. Hutchinson Jr., Zachary Z. Kinney, Stephen E. Klein, Robert A. Loch, Robert M. Nunley, Terrence M. O'Brien, Michal Ryan Pfeuffer, David E. Potters, Janice A. Powell, Matthew R. Rawlings, David A. Riggi, Martin R. Smith Jr., Joseph E. Spradling, Craig L. Vandergrift, Mark T. Wade and Robert A. Wilson Jr.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Case No. 34624