CHARLESTON - Seven months after his disbarment, Theodore R. "Ted" Dues Jr. continues to pass himself off as an attorney particularly with his membership on a statewide commission honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Last month, the state Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission announced the five honorees of its annual Living the Dream Award recognizing those who exemplify King's principles and ideals in pursuit of social justice. Press releases naming the winners, including Kanawha Magistrate Kim Aaron in the category of sharing of self, listed the names of the Commission's 18 board members including Dues.
Both the press releases, and the Commission's Web site show Dues' name followed by "Esq." An abbreviation of Esquire, Esq. is a title used in the United States by those admitted to the practice of law.
However, Dues is currently prohibited from practicing law until at the least 2014 following his disbarment by the state Supreme Court on May 13. In fact, Dues informed the Court the month before of his desire to voluntarily surrender his license.
Dues' decision came in the midst of facing a new round of ethics charges. Prior to the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Bar, on Dec. 19, 2008 filing a two-count statement of charges alleging seven violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Court three years earlier placed Dues on a restricted practice of hearing only mental hygiene cases for 24 months as punishment for mishandling the cases of nine clients.
Provided he paid the cost of the disciplinary proceedings, make $13,000 in restitution to the nine clients and prove his depression was under control, the restriction would be lifted in March 2008. The Court cited Dues' battle with depression following a heart attack in 2002, and subsequent triple bypass operation in 2003 as a mitigating factor in their punishment.
However, Dues unexpectedly stopped hearing mental hygiene cases in August 2007, and failed to make any restitution. Also, Dues was administratively suspended by the Bar in January 2008 after he failed to pay his annual dues, and disclose whether he was carrying malpractice insurance.
In the new statement of charges, the Board cited aggravating factors for Dues to receive a harsh punishment. Those included his 31 years as an attorney, prior disciplinary action by the Court, including a 1991 reprimand for a misdemeanor conviction in failing to file a tax return, and a "pattern and practice of accepting retainers from clients, failing to provide legal services for the same and subsequently failing to timely return the unearned portion of the retainer."
The West Virginia Record attempted to obtain a comment from Dues about identifying himself as attorney despite his disbarment, but a telephone number to his residence in South Charleston is unlisted. Also, repeated messages left with Hazo W. Carter Jr., president of West Virginia State University, and the Commission's chairman, were not returned by press time.