Starcher hires law clerk once pardoned for robbery

By Chris Dickerson | Feb 14, 2007


CHARLESTON -- West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Larry Starcher recently hired an attorney who was pardoned for a 1984 robbery.

Matthew Crabtree began the clerk's job in November, and his salary is $79,200.

Crabtree, 44, previously worked at the Supreme Court overseeing the magistrate court system. He held that job for four months in 2000 before resigning.

He is the son of the late Paul Crabtree, a former Supreme Court administrator who died in 1999.

"Matthew Crabtree is a brilliant young attorney who is both a talented writer and trial lawyer," Starcher said in a statement given to The West Virginia Record and the Charleston Daily Mail. "He became available in the job market at a time when one of my law clerks was leaving the court. He has a family with three
young daughters and needed a job."

Crabtree also ran a Kanawha City law firm that entered Chapter 7 bankruptcy in October 2005.

"It's an honor and a privilege for me to again work for the court," Crabtree said in the statement. "I look forward to providing a good service to my employer."

Crabtree was 22 in 1985 when he was convicted of the armed robbery an adult bookstore in Rand. He pleaded guilty to unaggravated robbery and was sentenced to five to 18 years in prison. He served 30 months before former Kanawha Circuit Judge Robert Smith
granted him probation.

According to a Daily Mail story, many people -- including Starcher, who was then a circuit judge in Monongalia County -- lobbied for Crabtree's probation, praising his character and pushing for him to have a second chance to set his life straight.

Crabtree graduated from West Virginia University in 1990 and wanted to go to law school, according to the Daily Mail story. But his felony conviction barred him from enrolling.

Gov. Gaston Caperton pardoned him, and he graduated with honors from WVU's law school in 1993.

Then, former Kanawha County Prosecutor Bill Forbes protested Crabtree's entrance to the bar, raising concerns about his criminal history. A circuit judge eventually sealed Crabtree's records, and the then 30-year-old went to work for the Kanawha County Public Defender's Office, according to the Daily Mail.

Personal law clerks at the Supreme Court "are hired by and at the sole discretion of the justice they work for," according to a statement from the Court.

Each justice has two personal clerks who research legal issues and help the judges write opinions on cases. The statement from the court noted that Crabtree's work focuses mostly on workers' compensation cases, but he also writes opinions for Starcher on a variety of other cases.

In their statement about Crabtree's employment, court officials said his $79,200 salary is at the low end of the pay scale for clerks, and that the highest salary for the job is set at $100,000.

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