CHARLESTON -- In addition to a recent legal malpractice suit, a Charleston attorney and former family law judge is accused by a former client in a complaint with the state Bar of misrepresenting his interests in a family law case.
Prior to the suit filed by Alfred Hill in Kanawha Circuit Court last month, Ronnie W. Bias of Ravenswood filed a complaint against Trent A. Redman with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Bar's investigative arm, on July 21. In his complaint, Bias, 38, a coal miner, alleges Redman not only appeared at a hearing without him, but also failed to keep him updated on the status of his case.
According to his complaint, Bias met with Redman on March 20 to discuss visitation problems with his two children from a previous marriage, Haylee, and Maranda. Bias alleges the girls refuse to visit him due to the manipulation of their mother, Dena Wall.
Specifically, Bias alleges Wall "encouraged them to lie about my wife, Kristy Bias, after she came to our home and was attempting to assault [Kristy]." In the course of the altercation, Bias said Kristy was able to get Wall to admit she had an affair for five years, and used the revelation as means to turn Haylee and Maranda against he and Kristy.
Despite Wall's efforts to alienate Haylee and Maranda from him, Bias said he decided to give the girls space. Eventually, he decided to address visitation along with other issues, including Wall "refinancing the house and getting it out of my name due to debt to income ratios, claiming the girls as dependants every other year on taxes ... and specifics on vacations and holidays."
In his complaint, Bias says he paid Redman $200 for the initial consultation, and a $2,000 retainer. Among Redman's first order of business was to get a continuance in an upcoming hearing so Bias could move from Boone County, where the case was pending, to Jackson County.
At a date not specified, Bias says both he and Kristy contacted Redman about the case after they "heard rumor of this order dated March 31, 2009." In both a personal visit Kristy made to his office, and later through an exchange of text messages on May 27, Bias says Redman "denied any meeting or hearing of any sort and denied the implications outlined in the order."
Bias maintains the way he found out about the hearing was through a third-party witness. The witness, Bias said, observed Wall, her mother, the girls, Redman and Pete Hendricks, a Boone County attorney, together at courthouse on the same day.
In his complaint, Bias maintains he attempted to get verification of the hearing through the court. However, the "hearing was not recorded per the office of [Boone Family Law Judge] Cynthia Jarrell."
Undeterred, Bias says he attempted to get an explanation from Redman through sending him a certified letter, which was returned unclaimed. Also, Bias avers he made three appointments to see Redman, all of which were cancelled.
"I cannot get the same story twice nor the issues resolved," Bias said in his complaint. "I am really sick of being lied to and think my interests were not protected by Mr. Redman.
In asking ODC to begin an investigation, Bias alleges Redman has done little, if any, work in his case causing his relationship between Haylee and Maranda to further deteriorate. Because of "financial strains, and Redman's refusal to provide him any details of the case, Bias says he's unable to find another attorney to help him.
Still no word
In a letter dated Aug. 5, Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Renee N. Frymer informed Bias that ODC was dismissing his complaint. Because the Rules of Professional Conduct give attorneys the "professional discretion to make decisions regarding trial strategy including, but not limited to, which motions to file in a case," Redman's appearance at the hearing without Bias' knowledge, and failure to get a continuance does not constitute an ethics violation.
However, since Bias raised allegations of unsuccessful attempts to communicate with him, Frymyer directed Redman to contact Bias immediately. She also directed Redman to provide written confirmation of the letter within 15 days of receiving it.
Though its is unclear if Redman provided Frymyer with the requested confirmation, ODC acknowledged one complaint is pending against him. When contacted by The West Virginia Record, Bias said Redman has yet to contact him pursuant to Frymyer's instructions, and he's told ODC about it.
Before entering private practice in July 2002, Redman, now 39, served as a Kanawha County family lawmaster/law judge for 18 months. He was first appointed lawmaster by then-Gov. Cecil H. Underwood in Jan. 2001, and later appointed family law judge in Nov. 2001, by Underwood's successor, Bob Wise.
Following passage of a constitutional amendment in 2000, lawmasters, who were appointed, were replaced with family law judges, who starting in 2002 would be elected, as part of unified court system. Redman was unsuccessful in retaining his seat following the May 2002 Democratic primary.