Couple files suit against Wood attorney for return of retainer

By Lawrence Smith | Sep 11, 2008

PARKERSBURG – A Wood County attorney is named a small claim suit by two former clients who allege he failed to render legal services for which he was paid.

On Sept. 9, Ernest B. and Roynea H. Carbo, of Elkins, filed suit in Wood Magistrate Court against Joseph P. Albright Jr. The Carbos, with the assistance of Erika H. Klie, of Buckhannon, claim they paid Albright, the son of state Supreme Court Justice Joseph Albright, a retainer of $3,000 only to have him perform little, if any, work.

"Plaintiffs retained Defendant," the suit alleges, "Plaintiffs then discovered no work had been done in their case for 2 years therefor terminating Defendant."

In addition to the $3,000 retainer, the Carbos are asking for court costs and interest.

Though the complaint does not specify why the Carbos retained Albright, Klie told The West Virginia Record it was to begin custody proceedings for their grandchildren. When they learned Albright failed to file the paperwork, Klie said the Carbos asked for an itemized billing.

When Albright failed to respond to the Carbo's repeated inquiries, they filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the investigative arm of the state Bar, Klie said. According to Klie, ODC determined the complaint to be a fee dispute and referred it to the Bar's Voluntary Fee Dispute Resolution Program.

However, Klie said mediation never occurred as Albright did not return repeated telephone calls to schedule a mediation session, thus prompting the Carbos to file their suit.

According to ODC, the Carbo's complaint is one of seven pending against Albright. Those complaints came after Albright was publicly reprimanded by the state Supreme Court in January 2007 on a six-count statement of charges for failing to properly communicate with three clients.

The Carbo's suit was filed, coincidentally, the same day Court officials announced that Albright's father, Justice Joseph P. Albright Sr., would be unable to hear cases for the remainder of Fall term. In July, Albright Sr. had an esophagectomy as treatment for throat cancer.

In a letter addressed to Chief Justice Elliott E. "Spike" Maynard, Albright said, "While my powers of analysis are fully intact, it appears to be preferable for me to concentrate on the healing of my body and the restoration of my physical abilities."

Though the Court heard several motions for appeal and arguments in two cases Tuesday morning, it cancelled the remainder of Tuesday's and all of Wednesday's dockets because of Albright's absence. On Thursday, Maynard appointed retired justice Tom HcHugh as Albright's temporary replacement until Jan. 2009.

The Court is scheduled to resume hearing cases this week, and has rescheduled the Sept 9 and 10 argument docket for Sept. 23. Because of the rescheduling, the Court's traditional visit to Marshall University to hear cases during Constitution Week, has been cancelled.

The Carbo case has been assigned to Magistrate Joyce Purkey.

Wood Magistrate Court, Case No. 08-C-1704

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