Man to plead his own case before Supreme Court to become lawyer

By Steve Korris | Sep 7, 2007

CHARLESTON - Michael Mounts admits he has a massive ego and a checkered past, but he doesn't see why those should keep him from practicing law in West Virginia.

Mounts has asked the Supreme Court of Appeals to overrule the Board of Law Examiners and admit him to the practice of law.

The board turned him down in March, rejecting the recommendation of a hearing examiner who found him fit for the profession.

He will plead his case to the Supreme Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

Mounts represents himself in his quest for a license.

Addressing the Court in third person he wrote, "…the best way to prove his fitness was to provide a live demonstration of his lawyering abilities."

He wrote, "Second, he wanted to be solely responsible for the presentation of his case and the outcome of this matter."

He argued that the Court recently admitted a convicted felon to the practice of law, and he asked the Court to judge him by the same standards.

His mistakes have clung to him for 14 years.

In 1993, at the end of a marriage, he charged his wife with harassment and she filed a civil assault charge against him.

Nothing came of the charges.

In divorce proceedings in Maryland, a judge held him in contempt but did not impose a penalty.

Next his employer, the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration, transferred him to Charleston and paid for the move.

He had found a girlfriend, and he moved her belongings with his. When his bosses asked him if he did it, he denied it.

That elevated his misconduct from cheating to lying. The DEA fired him.

He applied for a license as a private investigator. He wrote that DEA fired him because he was falsely accused.

He got the license, but under cross examination at a murder trial he lied about his DEA termination.

He married again but it did not go smoothly. Once he and she injured each other. Once he slapped their son in the mouth.

In 2000 he applied to Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.

On a blank for arrests or charges, he did not report the ex-wife's assault charge.

The school accepted him and for three years he made a 314 mile round trip. He graduated in 2004.

He applied for admission to the West Virginia Bar. He did not report the Maryland contempt order.

The Bar Association's district character committee interviewed him and recommended further review by the Board of Law Examiners.

The board interviewed him and asked him to undergo a psychological evaluation at his own expense.

He paid $600 for the exam and submitted the evaluation to the board.

The board ruled in September 2005 that he did not demonstrate the requisite character and fitness for the practice of law.

They found that DEA fired him for misappropriating public funds and lying to investigators.

They found that on his private eye application he denied culpability for his termination from DEA.

They found that on his law school application he failed to disclose his ex-wife's assault charge.

They found "more recent incidents of domestic violence."

They found that in his interview with them, he was "not entirely candid" about his DEA termination.

He asked for a hearing. The board granted it and picked John Fowler as hearing examiner.

Fowler held three days of hearings. Mounts produced Bar members as character witnesses and submitted letters of recommendation.

This February, Fowler decided that the State Bar should admit Mounts.

He wrote that Mounts had a checkered past and a massive ego, and that he might exaggerate.

He wrote, "…none of these criteria is sufficient to deny him admission to the West Virginia Bar."

Fowler's opinion did not impress the Board of Law Examiners. In March they affirmed their earlier decision.

In April Mounts filed exceptions with the Supreme Court of Appeals.

He wrote that he learned from his mistakes.

He wrote that on his private eye application he provided as much explanation as he felt the application requested. He wrote that the Secretary of State never asked for further explanation.

He wrote that he did not know he had been charged with assault and he believed his ex-wife had only threatened to file charges.

He wrote that testimony did not support the contention that he had a history of misconduct in personal relationships.

He wrote that he was 100 percent honest in his interview with the board.

He wrote that at the murder trial he misspoke a word about his termination, and that subsequent testimony corrected the misstatement.

He wrote that the Maryland judge issued no contempt order.

He wrote, "Mr. Mounts does not claim to belovable."

For the board, John Hedges of Morgantown responded that Mounts displayed "a pattern of dishonesty, misconduct and lack of candor."

He wrote that Mounts tried to excuse or discount this pattern.

He wrote, "…the false testimony was more extensive than simply misspeaking one word."

He wrote that the Maryland judge found Mounts in contempt and gave him an 18 month suspernded sentence.

He wrote that Mount's refusal to acknowledge the contempt order "reveals an unparalleled arrogance and lack of respect."

He wrote, "Mental and emotional stability are part of the qualifications required to practice law."

He wrote, "Honesty, candor and respect for others are chief among the qualities a prospective lawyer must possess."

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