Despite suspension, Cookman still faces contempt charges

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 6, 2009

CHARLESTON - Despite his recent disbarment, Donald P. Cookman still faces contempt charges for failing to abide by the terms of a previous disciplinary order.

CHARLESTON - Despite his recent disbarment, Donald P. Cookman still faces contempt charges for failing to abide by the terms of a previous disciplinary order.

Prior to its Feb. 26 ordering annulling his law license, the state Supreme Court on Jan. 29 agreed to hear a motion filed by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel to hold Cookman in contempt for violating the terms of the Court's Sept. 25 order suspending him. The Court is scheduled to hear arguments on ODC's motion on April 8.

Along with the suspension, the Court ordered Cookman to make restitution to two clients, Mike S. McDonald and Steven S. Cowgill. The order called for Cookman to refund their retainers of $2,500 and $1,500, respectfully, by Nov. 25.

On Jan. 5, ODC sent Cookman a letter asking for verification he made the restitution to McDonald and Cowgill. The letter also asked Cookman to comply with one of the other requirements of the Sept. 25 order that he pay the $3,904.74 for the disciplinary proceeding.

When it filed its petition to show cause with the Court on Jan. 21, ODC said Cookman had yet to comply with either request.

However, in a letter dated Jan. 30, Cookman filed his response to ODC's petition. In his letter, Cookman said it's not that he doesn't want to make restitution, but that, for now, he has limited financial means to do so.

"My reason for non-compliance has not been because I do not intend to comply," Cookman said. "Instead, my trouble with complying has been my financial and personal situation which have made it impossible to comply with the Order."

Cookman says his life has been nothing but "chaos" since the Court suspended him. In addition to loosing his law income, Cookman said his income as a Hampshire County Commissioner stopped on Dec. 31 when he failed to get re-elected, a piece of rental property that operated at a loss is now in foreclosure, and his estranged wife, Rebekah, is attempting to "starve me out."

In regard to the latter, Cookman says though he voluntarily left the home he shared with her, Rebekah has asked for a contested divorce and has "refused to meet to discuss [sic] settlement, to consider any form of property division, or to release any marital funds to me without and Order of the Court."

However, Cookman said he started a new job on Jan. 12, and intends to use portions of the first several paychecks he receives to "fulfill my obligations." Though Cookman doesn't specify in his letter where he's working, records show it's with the state of West Virginia.

In concluding his letter, Cookman, again, says he intends to comply with the Court's order, and begs their indulgence to be patient with him.

"Again, I know that these obligations remain and I must and will comply with them," Cookman said.

"Further, even though I've made the decision to voluntarily surrender my law license, and have been attempting to do that for several months, I know that such a surrender will not remove these obligations. I only ask that the State Bar and the Supreme Court allow me additional time to do this."

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Case No. 34719

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