CHARLESTON – Six months ago, Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals suspected that the crimes of Desiree Albers disqualified her from practicing laws.
But after they learned more, they gave her a break.
They decided Nov. 29 that Albers could keep her license because she has made progress against "personal and emotional problems which seem to have triggered her conduct."
She committed her crimes against former husband Michael Albers, a Huntington policeman.
To keep a fence between attorney Albers and officer Albers, the Justices ruled that she cannot defend suspects in Huntington police cases for 18 months.
Desiree Albers began practicing law in 2000.
Michael Albers obtained a domestic violence protection order against Desiree Albers, and in 2001 police charged her with violating the order.
A judge found her incompetent to stand trial and committed her to a hospital.
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board suspended her license.
In a few weeks, the judge declared her competent to stand trial.
She pleaded no contest to domestic assault, petit larceny, telephone harassment, and violation of a protection order -- all misdemeanor offenses.
A judge placed her on probation.
In 2002, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board reinstated her license subject to a condition that she would practice under the supervision of another attorney for a year.
One day, she and Michael Albers argued over time with their daughter. She forced her way into his home. Police charged her with felony burglary.
A judge revoked her probation and sentenced her to a year in Cabell County jail.
The Lawyer Disciplinary Board again suspended her license.
In 2003, a grand jury indicted her on charges of felony burglary, domestic assault, trespass and destruction of property.
In 2004, she was found guilty of destroying property and trespassing –- both misdemeanor offenses. A judge sentenced her to 10 months of home confinement.
She completed the sentence successfully and petitioned to reinstate her license.
This April, a Lawyer Disciplinary Board panel found that she violated professional rules of conduct but recommended conditional reinstatement of her license.
Panel members found that she was remorseful for her conduct. They found that a psychologist determined she was competent to return to the practice of law.
They ordered 18 months of supervised practice and six months of weekly counseling.
They wrote, "Respondent must refrain, for a period of 18 months, from accepting any case wherein any member of the Huntington Police Department is involved ..."
When the Lawyer Disciplinary Board presented the recommendation to the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Justices balked. In June they asked for further briefs.
Sherri Goodman of Charleston represented Albers before the Court. Rachael Fletcher represented the Lawyer Disciplinary Board.
The Justices decided that the panel made the right call after all.
In an unsigned opinion, they wrote that Albers never violated a duty to a client.
They wrote, "Rather, she engaged in conduct which was almost entirely self-destructive and which related to her failed marriage."
They wrote that there was no dishonest or selfish motive behind her conduct.
They wrote, "Since getting her emotional and personal problems under control, she has tried to rectify the situation, and she has always been fully cooperative with the disciplinary board."