CHARLESTON – Lawyer Edward ReBrook, representing Supreme Court Justice-elect Margaret Workman, has found a fatal flaw in a Kanawha Circuit Court order that favored Workman in a fee dispute.
ReBrook wants Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib to erase portions of an order he signed on Aug. 27, but attorney Michael Ranson wants Zakaib to tear up the order and write another.
Ranson had moved in September to stay the order, which divided an $80,000 fee by awarding $76,500 to Workman and $3,500 to Ranson.
To complicate matters, illness has kept Zakaib away from his job for weeks.
He had set a Nov. 12 hearing for Ranson, but instead he spent the day in a hospital.
Ranson represented Eugenia Moschgat, daughter of Linda Kinnaird, who died in a job accident in 2000. Workman represented Kinnaird's ten brothers and sisters.
Workman argued that Moschgat deserved no compensation because she and her mother hadn't spoken in years. Workman claimed her clients deserved compensation.
The state Supreme Court ruled that only Moschgat could recover, but the Justices appointed Diana Savilla, one of her aunts, to administer the estate.
Justice Robin Davis anticipated trouble.
"Ms. Moschgat's potential recovery now rests in the hands of a plaintiff who does not want her to have a single penny," she wrote. "This decision sets horrendous precedent."
Moschgat settled with her mother's employer, Speedway SuperAmerica, for $240,000.
Zakaib kept the legal fee in escrow for a year and a half before deciding that Workman deserved the lion's share.
The order he signed also bore ReBrook's signature.
Ranson moved to stay enforcement of the order, protesting that ReBrook and Zakaib communicated "ex parte."
Court rules forbid ex parte communications between a judge and a lawyer outside the presence of the opposing lawyer.
On Nov. 19, ReBrook informed the court that the order contained errors.
He wrote that it contained references to depositions that didn't belong in the order.
Ranson responded on Nov. 25 that Zakaib must vacate the order.
"Neither the intervenor nor her counsel has any information as to how the ex parte communication occurred between the Court and Mr. ReBrook," Ranson wrote.
Workman won election to the Supreme Court of Appeals in November.
Earlier this month, Moschgat filed another suit in Putnam County seeking to recover the money Workman received.
George Morrone of Ranson Law Offices in Charleston filed the suit Dec. 3. Moschgat didn't sue Workman. She sued her own aunt, Diana Savilla of Hurricane.
"Savilla, with the assistance of Margaret Workman, intentionally and maliciously sought out to destroy the character and integrity of Ms. Moschgat," Morrone wrote.
The suit seeks compensatory, punitive and general damages from Savilla for replacing Moschgat as administratrix of the estate of Linda Kinnaird, Moschgat's mother.