Tax Dept. attorney sued by former client for legal malpractice

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 2, 2009


CHARLESTON – Now that she is gainfully employed, a Sissonville man seeks to dip into the salary a South Charleston attorney now receives at her state job for her alleged failure to file his bankruptcy case.

On Nov. 18, Donald McCune filed suit against Ellen F. Golden in Kanawha Circuit Court for legal malpractice. According to court records, McCune is seeking return of the $730 he paid Golden on Aug. 26, 2003 "to file [for] bankruptcy" but "Never was filed."

McCune originally filed his suit in Kanawha Magistrate Court on Aug. 22. Because he sought interest and punitive damages in addition to a full refund, his case was transferred to circuit court.

In an amended complaint and suit he filed pro se on Dec. 3, McCune asked for return of the $730 "... Plus money to compensate me for all the trouble she caused me."

Last year, Golden, who previously operated the Golden Law Office on Quarrier Street in Charleston, was barred by U.S. District Bankruptcy Court Judge Ronald G. Pearson for filing bankruptcies for a year. Pearson's March 10 order came at the request of the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee's Office after five of her clients complained of a lack of communication with Golden.

In a previous interview with The West Virginia Record, Golden said the failure to communicate with her clients was the fault of her telephone carrier whom she blamed for not transferring her calls to her home in South Charleston. After she closed in her office in early January, Golden said she did not receive any calls to her office number until Feb. 27 –- the same day the Trustee's Office entered its motion to have her removed as counsel of the five former clients.

Though not one of the five clients part of the Trustee's Office's motion, McCune, 66, a retired businessman who now living on Social Security, refuted Golden's claim she was unable to receive telephone calls. In a complaint he filed with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the investigative arm of the state Bar, McCune avers he called Golden at her office number and spoke with her on Jan. 25.

When he asked for a refund, Golden blamed him for the bankruptcy not being filed since he did not keep in contact with her. However, when McCune reminded her that she failed to return his repeated telephone calls in 2003 and 2004, "She then abruptly ended our telephone conversation."

Records show in the midst of complaints she failed to help clients file for bankruptcy, Golden, with the assistance of Charleston attorney, Marshall C. Spradling, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Jan. 29 on behalf of her office. Her bankruptcy was terminated on Sept. 23.

Currently, Golden is employed as an Attorney 3 with the state Tax Department. According to the state Auditor's Office, she was hired on Sept. 2, and will paid $55,188.

Though employed with the Tax Department, records show Golden still has an outstanding tax lien from her business. According to records in the Kanawha County Clerk's Office, the city of Charleston executed a judgment against Golden Law Office, PLLC on April 17 for unpaid second quarter 2007 B&O taxes.

According to the judgment, Golden owes the city $177.98 plus $14.23 in penalties and $4.75 in interest for a total of $196.96.

When contacted about McCune's suit, Golden declined to comment.

The case has been assigned to Judge Charles E. King.

Kanawha Circuit Court Case No. 08-C-3187 and Kanawha Magistrate Court Case No. 08-C-2673

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