CHARLESTON – As a result of failing to communicate with several of his clients, a Logan County attorney will have to put his practice on hold for at least the next two years.
The state Supreme Court on Jan. 26 ordered the indefinite suspension of Michael A. Esposito. However, the Court's order stated Esposito, 53, a sole practitioner in Logan, could return to the practice of law as early as 2014 if he meets several conditions.
Among those were undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, and following the treatment recommendations, take an additional 12 hours of continuing legal education in the area of ethics and make restitution of $5,000 and $1,900 to Robert D. Wise and Ronald Booth, respectively. Wise and Booth filed separate ethics complaints against Esposito in 2009 saying he failed to keep them updated on the progress of their cases.
In his complaint filed June 18, Donnie Wise, Robert's father, alleged both made multiple inquiries with Esposito of the work he performed in Robert's child support case that was filed in Aug. 2006, and later dismissed on Oct. 23, 2007. Together, the Wises paid Esposito $5,000.
In December 2008, and on multiple occasions between January and May 2009, Donnie was able to contact Esposito who each time said he was "reviewing the matter" and would get back in touch with either he or Robert with an itemized statement of his work. When none was forthcoming, Donnie filed his complaint.
A week following Wise's complaint, Booth filed his against Esposito. In it, he says he fired Esposito after he was unable to reach him for two years about the status of his unspecified civil case, and wanted a refund of $1,900.
In November 2009, Esposito appeared several times in Charleston to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to respond to both complaints. Each time, he asked for a continuance stating a variety of reasons including his inability to bring the client files due to the electricity in his office being turned off.
When Esposito failed to make a supplemental response to the ethics complaints, and provide ODC his files on Wise and Booth after he was served with a subpoena dues tecum on July 16, 2010, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board on Nov. 3 filed a two-count statement of charges accusing him of nine violations of Rules of Professional Conduct. Among the Rules Esposito was accused of violating where those dealing with diligence, communication, safekeeping of property and failing to respond to an ethics inquiry.
A statement of charges acts as an indictment for disciplinary purposes.
About a month later, a second statement of charges was filed against Esposito. This time, he was charged with seven Rules violations stemming from his lack of communication with Retonda L. Dingess and Melissa Curtis in their respective personal injury cases.
Records show, Dingess and Curtis filed their complaints on Sept. 13 and Oct. 5, 2010. When Esposito failed to respond to ODC's repeated inquiries including a subpoena dues tecum on the heels of Wise and Booth's case, the Board filed the second statement of charges.
Despite separate disciplinary recommendations by the Board's Hearing Panel Subcommittee for Esposito on each statement, the Court's order encompassed both. Along with the conditions it set forth for him returning the practice of law, the Court ordered Esposito's practice to be supervised for two years following his reinstatement, and he pay of the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.
According to the state Bar, Esposito was first admitted on May 17, 1983.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case numbers 35724 (Wise and Booth) and 10-4018 (Dingess and Curtis)