CHARLESTON – For 12 years, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals let Thomas McCorkle pretend he held a license to practice law. But the Court's tolerance backfired and, at last, they cracked down.
The Justices annulled McCorkle's license June 8, finding that in two cases he engaged in dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.
The West Virginia Bar admitted McCorkle to practice in 1982.
In 1992, he pleaded guilty to cocaine possession.
In 1994, the Supreme Court of Appeals suspended his license for two years after finding he used a hospital employee to tip him about accident victims.
The Justices chose harsh punishment because McCorkle manufactured a telephone recording to support his claim of honesty.
The Justices sent him to treatment and counseling for drug and alcohol problems.
Rather than allow automatic reinstatement in 1996, the Justices told him he would have to apply for it.
McCorkle did not apply for reinstatement but he resumed the practice of law.
In 1997, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board brought McCorkle before the Court on charges that he failed to document expenses a plaintiff advanced to him.
The Justices admonished McCorkle, suspended him for two years and told him that after reinstatement they would supervise him for two years.
They overlooked his failure to apply for reinstatement after the first suspension.
After the proceedings, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board received evidence that McCorkle added memo notes to checks before turning them over as evidence.
The board obtained bank originals. The memo notes did not appear.
Investigating a trust fund McCorkle managed, the board charged that he diverted $575 to pay rent for his residence and $15,000 to loan to a friend.
At a subcommittee hearing in 2003, psychiatrist John MacCallum said McCorkle had changed his life and was motivated to conduct himself in an appropriate manner.
The subcommittee recommended annulment last October. Members counted McCorkle's prior discipline as an aggravating factor.
They added to their report a critical note on McCorkle's demeanor at the hearing.
McCorkle filed objections with the Supreme Court of Appeals, arguing that the board lacked clear and convincing evidence and annulment was too harsh.
McCorkle, representing himself, submitted evidence of good prospects for complete recovery from drug, alcohol and other health problems.
He argued that the subcommittee committed error by observing his demeanor and that it failed to consider fully MacCallum's testimony.
Richard Rowe of Charleston, special counsel to the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, argued for annulment.
The Justices agreed with Rowe, ruling that prior discipline properly counted as an aggravating factor.
McCorkle can apply for reinstatement.