Wetzel attorney, former Supreme Court candidate faces disbarment
Lawrence Smith Aug. 17, 2012, 2:50am
CHARLESTON – A Wetzel County attorney who was a candidate for the state Supreme Court soon could be without a license.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the arm of the Court that investigates attorney misconduct, has petitioned for the disbarment of H. John Rogers. In its Feb. 16 petition, ODC says Rogers' conviction last year on charges of falsifying information about a New Martinsville businessman's mental health "reflects adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness and fitness as a lawyer" to the point that the Court should yank his license.
According to the petition, Rogers, 72, a sole practitioner in New Martinsville, on July 27, 2009 swore out a mental hygiene warrant on Jeffrey Shade, owner of Barista, Inc., a combination restaurant, barber shop and massage parlor. In his application, Rogers alleged Shade "'physically assaulted me twice, at 9:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. on July 27 with no provocation.'"
Two days later, Shade was taken into custody by the Wetzel County Sheriff's Department, and taken to the Hillcrest Behavioral Health Center at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling for evaluation. Later that afternoon, he was released after a mental hygiene commissioner found no probable cause to Rogers' allegations.
According to ODC's petition, witnesses to the altercations said that Shade did not assault Rogers. Instead, both had an exchange of words that morning where Shade poked Rogers in the chest, and Rogers returned to Baristas later in the afternoon whereby Rogers pointed at, and called him "'pure evil.'"
In January 2010, Rogers was indicted by the Wetzel County grand jury on one count each of false swearing, and malicious application to declare a person mentally ill or inebriate, both misdemeanors. After the case was remanded to Wetzel Magistrate Court, records show Rogers on Nov. 30 agreed to plead no contest to both counts.
On Jan. 23, Wetzel Magistrate William Anderson sentenced Rogers to 90 days in jail on both counts, ordered him to pay $300 in fines and $560 in court costs and placed him on two years unsupervised probation. Records show, Anderson suspended all but 10 days of Rogers' jail sentence and ordered him to self-report to the Northern Regional Jail on Jan. 30.
Two days later, Rogers filed a petition in Wetzel Circuit Court for a stay of Anderson's sentence pending an appeal. Records show, Judge Mark A. Karl granted it on Jan. 27.
Because he "unlawfully, willfilly and maliciously" made a false application that resulted in Shade's involuntary hospitalization, ODC says Rogers violated Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Also, ODC maintains his conviction for a crime "involving moral turpitude and professional unfitness," is sufficient grounds for his disbarment.
An evidentiary hearing on ODC's petition is scheduled for Aug. 21 and 22 in New Martinsville. According to the state Bar's Web site, Rogers began practicing law on Sept. 1, 1966.
Rogers unsuccessfully sought nomination in May's Democratic primary for one of the two Court seats. In the field of six candidates, he placed fifth behind incumbent Justice Robin Jean Davis, Mingo County attorney Tish Chafin, Greenbrier Circuit Judge James J. Rowe and Wood Circuit Judge J.D. Beane.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 12-0195