CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that a West Virginia attorney's law license be suspended for 90 days following multiple complaints after her work.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel instituted a lawyer disciplinary proceeding against April D. Conner after three complaints had been filed against her, according to a decision filed Feb. 5 by the Supreme Court of Appeals.
Justice Robin Jean Davis authored the opinion.
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board recommended a 30-day suspension of Conner's law license, in addition to other recommended sanctions.
"This court did not agree with the proposed punishment and scheduled the case for oral argument," the decision states. "Thereafter, the ODC moved this court to enhance the previously-requested sanctions because, in its opinion, additional aggravating factors had been committed since the [Hearing Panel Subcommittee] recommendations."
Based upon this court's review of the record submitted, the ODC's brief and argument and the applicable legal precedent, this court finds clear and convincing evidence to support the factual findings of the HPS.
"However, we disagree with the HPS's recommended sanctions in regard to the length of the license suspension," the decision states. "Accordingly, we impose a ninety-day suspension of Ms. Conner’s law license, and adopt the remaining sanctions as recommended by the HPS."
After three complaints were filed against Conner, including one by the ODC itself, the HPS heard testimony from Conner's former clients on Nov. 21, 2013, and determined she had violated multiple rules of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct.
The court ruled that Conner violated duties to the clients whose representation is at issue.
"During the pendency of their cases, Ms. Conner failed to perfect appeals, violated her duty of communication with her clients and agreed to perform certain legal services but failed to perform those services or return the unearned fee after being discharged by the client," the decision states.
Significantly, Conner also failed to appear before this court, as ordered, for a show cause hearing.
"Her failure to appear demonstrated conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice," the decision states. "Finally, she violated her duties to the legal system and the profession by failing to comply with the ODC’s requests for information during the course of her disciplinary matter. Ms. Conner’s conduct brought disrepute upon the legal system and profession."
The court imposed sanctions on Conner, including that her license be suspended for 90 days; that, if she has not already done so, Conner be ordered to reimburse Shawna Drum, one of her former clients, her $2,000 retainer fee; that following her suspension, she will sign and follow a plan of supervised practice for a period of two years with a supervising attorney of her choice; and that she be ordered to reimburse the Lawyer Disciplinary Board the costs of these proceedings pursuant to Rule 3.15 of the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure.
The LDB was represented by Joanne M. Vella Kirby of the Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel.
Conner represented herself.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 13-0522