CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has agreed to suspend the law license of a West Virginia attorney.
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board instituted the consolidated lawyer disciplinary proceedings against David S. Hart and the disposition recommended by the Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board included a one-year suspension of Hart’s law license, in addition to other recommended sanctions, according to the June 9 opinion.
Justice Robin Jean Davis authored the majority opinion.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel disagreed with the length of the proposed suspension and, ultimately, recommended a two-year suspension of Hart’s law license, along with the other penalties as suggested by the HPS.
"Based upon this court's review of the record submitted, the ODC's brief and argument, and the applicable legal precedent, this court disagrees with the length of the suspension recommended by both the HPS and the ODC," the opinion states. "Instead, due to the egregious and repetitive nature of Mr. Hart’s misconduct, this court imposes a three-year suspension of Mr. Hart’s law license and, further, adopts, with one addition, the remaining sanctions recommended by the HPS."
The first statement of charges was filed against Hart on July 30, 2013, and the first case consisted of complaints from six of his clients. A hearing was held, testimony was elicited from the six complainants and evidence was submitted.
A second case arose prior to the HPS's issuance of a report and recommended disposition on the first case. The second statement of charges was filed on April 11, 2014, and included complaints from one of Hart's clients and the HPS heard evidence from Hart and the complainant.
The HPS recommended that Hart be suspended for one year, required to issue refunds to two clients in the total amount of $7,850, to issue an itemized statement of account to a third client and pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding, according to the opinion.
ODC filed an objection and recommended a suspension period of 18 months. The ODC moved the court to enhance the previously-requested sanctions and finally recommended he be suspended for two years.
"This court previously has increased the recommended sanction in a lawyer disciplinary proceeding when a lawyer failed to communicate with his clients, caused them to suffer financial harm, and failed to respond to ODC," the opinion states.
The Supreme Court imposed a three-year license suspension on Hart's law license.
"Further, we adopt the remaining recommendations made to this Court by the HPS with one addition pertaining to the complaint by Mr. Henderson," the opinion states. "In addition to accepting the recommendation of the HPS that Mr. Hart provide an itemized statement of account to Mr. Henderson, we additionally order that Mr. Hart must refund any unearned portion of the fee to Mr. Henderson prior to petitioning for reinstatement pursuant to Rule 3.32 of the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure."
The court ruled that Hart’s law license is suspended for a period of three years; that he issue refunds of $7,850; that he must provide an itemized statement of account to Tony R. Henderson Jr. and must refund to Henderson any unearned portion of the fee he paid; that Hart pay the costs of the proceedings pursuant to Rule 3.15 of the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure.
The LDB was represented by Andrea J. Hinerman of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Hart represented himself.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case numbers: 13-0748, 14-0349