CHARLESTON -– Morgantown attorney Allan N. Karlin was named president of the West Virginia Association for Justice at the organization's annual meeting recently in Charleston.
WVAJ is a professional association of nearly 600 attorneys throughout West Virginia and in surrounding states. Its members represent those who have been injured by the misconduct and negligence of others. Karlin has been on the association's executive committee for nine years and was named the association's Member of the Year in 2006.
"It is an honor to become president of the West Virginia Association for Justice," Karlin said. "During the coming year, we hope to make all West Virginians more aware of who we are and what we do. Our attorneys represent the victims of shoddy products, unsafe workplaces and wrongful firings.
"We challenge insurance companies when they refuse to pay meritorious claims. Our members are also active in our local communities, supporting programs that help the needy, sponsoring activities for our youth and providing leadership in our churches, our schools and other organizations. Our members are also involved at every level of state government."
Karlin was raised in Chicago where he first learned about the importance of our country's civil justice system from his father and uncle, both of whom were attorneys.
"I grew up believing that attorneys were the voice of the injured, the powerless and the victims of arrogance and greed. I still hold to that belief and try to live it in my work," Karlin said.
"My father and mother taught me that becoming a lawyer was a privilege that would provide me with a place in my community, but also that it obligated me to use my skills to fight injustice. As a teenager, I remember attending a lecture from a famous member of the organization about his most important case. It was a suit against a debt collector who harassed a hard working, but low-income family because they had fallen slightly behind in their payments.
"Although his victory hardly ranked with his largest verdicts, he brought that family more than money-he proved that our judicial system was about justice. WVAJ members are doing the same thing in our courts every single day."
After earning a degree in Social Sciences from Yale, Karlin went to Texarkana as a VISTA volunteer and worked as a community organizer. He also took a year off from his undergraduate education and spent a year teaching in Morocco.
After VISTA, he entered law school at the University of California at Berkeley, graduating in 1974. That year, he came to West Virginia to work for Legal Services. From 1976 to 1981, he was the director of the North Central Legal Aid Society. In 1981, he opened his private practice in Morgantown. The firm specializes in employment law, personal injury, and wrongful death.
In one of his most satisfying cases, Karlin served as co-counsel in the wrongful termination case of Dr. Aliakbar Afsahri and his wife, Shahla Azadi.
The Afsahris had been summarily fired from their positions at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety for allegedly failing a background investigation. At the time of their firing, they were highly respected by their colleagues, including their supervisors.
Although few other attorneys thought that the Afsharis could prevail, the lawsuit ended with a settlement that completely vindicated both of them.
"There is no greater satisfaction in the practice of law than prevailing against injustice on behalf of fine people like the Afsharis.," Karlin said.
Karlin was a member of the West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board for six years and served as its chairperson from 2000 to 2003. In 2004, he was named a Fellow of the West Virginia Bar Foundation. In 2005, he received the Sid Bell Memorial Award from the American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia.
He was inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers in 2006, and he was inducted into the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers in 2007. He is a member of the Ethics and Sanctions Committee of the National Employment Lawyers Association and a member of the board of directors for the West Virginia Fund for Lawyers in the Public Interest.
He is the outgoing co-chair of the Campaign for Legal Aid, which raises funds for the program to provide legal services to low-income clients. He is also an adjunct professor for the WVU College of Law where he has taught pre-trial litigation.
The other officers for the 2008-2009 year are: Timothy C. Bailey, president-elect – Charleston; Michael J. Romano, vice president – Clarksburg; Paul T. Farrell, Jr., treasurer – Huntington; Scott S. Blass, secretary – Wheeling; Bernard E. Layne, III, parliamentarian – Charleston; and Teresa C. Toriseva, immediate past president – Wheeling.