Justice Joseph P. Albright Sr.

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has formally reprimanded the son of one its members for multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

On Jan. 10, the Court accepted the recommendation of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board that Joseph P. Albright Jr., son of Justice Joseph P. Albright Sr., be publicly reprimanded in the six-count statement of charges brought against him.

In its statement, the Board alleged Albright violated rules dealing with effectively communicating with and diligently representing clients, and promptly responding to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel's inquiry in the complaints filed by the clients.

Because of their relationship, Justice Albright was disqualified from hearing the case.

According to the statement, Albright was charged with a total of nine Rules violations in each of the two counts brought against him in the cases of Rita A. Ramsey, Randall Hamrick and Danny E. and Connie S. VanDale.

In addition to a public reprimand, the Board recommended, and the Court agreed, that Albright "pay the costs of this disciplinary proceeding; and ... complete the matter for Mrs. Ramsey and shall provide a status report to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel every three months following this Court's ruling on this matter until such time as he concludes Mrs. Ramsey's matter."

Not returning phone calls

According to its statement, Albright, with the Parkersburg law firm of Bradley and Albright, became counsel to Ramsey, a beneficiary to the estate of Clyde Curtis Carter. In April 2003, Ramsey signed paperwork giving Albright permission to be appointed administrator of Carter's estate.

Over the next year, records show, Ramsey and her husband, Philip, attempted unsuccessfully to contact Albright. On June 30, 2004, the Ramseys, who live in Florida, sent Albright a fax asking him to update them on the status of probating the estate.

Albright failed to reply to the Ramsey's request, records show.

Also, in the course of its investigation, the Board discovered that by June 2006, Albright failed to qualify as an administrator to Carter's estate.

Though it is not clear if he was paid one in Ramsey's case, Albright received a retainer in the two other cases. According to records, he was paid $1,000 and $500, respectively, in Hamrick's and the VanDale's case.

Records show Hamrick retained Albright on May 25, 2004 to petition the court for a reduction in child support payments due to a pending job loss. For the next five months, Hamrick was unable to speak with Albright.

According to records, Hamrick called Albright's office on Oct. 25, 2004, the day before his hearing, to speak with Albright. Though Hamrick did not speak with him, one of his staffers said Albright "had the date on his calendar."

However, records show, Albright failed to appear for Hamrick's hearing.

In the VanDale's case, Albright was retained to handle a criminal matter pertaining to their son, Joshua. Records are unclear as to what the matter was about.

Nevertheless, records show the VanDales retained Albright on Feb. 10, 2006 with the understanding he would call Detective Hart with the Parkersburg Police Department to discuss Joshua's matter. By Feb. 22, Albright had not called Hart after he and the VanDales left several messages with him.

In all three of the cases, Albright ignored repeated ODC requests to respond to the complaints against him. In Ramsey's and Hamrick's cases, records show, he only replied when ODC subpoenaed him to testify at its office in Charleston.

Declining comment

Shortly after he failed to reply to the complaint against him in the VanDale's case, ODC found probable cause to bring a statement of charges against Albright. Records show the Board brought the statement against Albright on June 16.

In its statement, the Board gave Albright 30 days to file a reply in which failure to do so "shall be deemed an admission of the actual allegations contained herein." Nothing in his disciplinary file shows Albright replying to the Board's allegations.

When reached for a comment, Albright said he had none, and considered the matter resolved.

"It's behind me," he said.

Also, calls for a comment from Justice Albright via Court spokeswoman Kandy L. Greter, where not returned by press time.

State Supreme Court case number 33116

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