Albright Jr. contempt hearing scheduled for Sept. 23

By Lawrence Smith | Jul 17, 2009

CHARLESTON - Among the cases the state Supreme Court will hear early in its Fall 2009 term is a petition to hold a Wood County attorney in contempt.

CHARLESTON - Among the cases the state Supreme Court will hear early in its Fall 2009 term is a petition to hold a Wood County attorney in contempt.

On Sept. 23, oral arguments are scheduled in the case of Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Joseph P. Albright Jr. ODC, the investigative arm of the state Bar, is asking the Court to hold Albright in contempt for failing to complete an estate settlement for client as ordered by the Court 2 ½ years ago.

In January 2007, the Court reprimanded Albright for mishandling the cases of three clients. One of those clients is Rita Ramsey of Longwood, Fla., who said Albright failed to provide her any information for over a year on the settlement of an estate to which she is a beneficiary.

Court records show Ramsey signed an agreement with Albright in April 2003 to become the executor of the estate of Clyde Curtis Carter, Ramey's step-grandfather. Albright's father, Joseph P. Albright Sr. was appointed executor in July 1999, but had to relinquish the case following his election to the Court in 2000.

In reprimanding Albright Jr. the Court ordered he complete settlement of the Carter estate, and provide ODC a quarterly update of his work. Because of their relationship, Justice Albright was disqualified from hearing the case.

He passed away in March after a long battle with esophageal cancer.

In its petition to show cause filed on April 16, ODC documented the numerous attempts it made over the last two years to get an answer from either Albright or his attorney Sherri Goodman, a former chief lawyer disciplinary counsel, about the status of the estate settlement. Though Goodman was good to reply, records show she was unable to offer little in the way details about Albright's work as he'd hardly done any.

When it received a letter in September from Wood County Commissioner Rick Modesitt saying that nearly $2,500 had been transferred from the Carter estate into Albright's account, ODC demanded an immediate accounting of his work. Records show, the funds transfer came a day after Albright formally qualified as the estate's executor despite signing the agreement with Ramsey five years earlier.

In her reply to ODC's inquiries over the next six months, Goodman said that Albright failed to respond to her repeated telephone and e-mail messages, and letters. After contacting the Wood County Probate Office on April 15 to discover the Carter estate was still open, ODC filed its petition for contempt.

Since then, records show Goodman filed two motions with the Court on June 3. One was for an extension of time to file a reply, and the other to withdraw as Albright's attorney.

The Court on the same day denied the first, and granted the second motion. As of presstime, no reply brief has been submitted, and no notice of new counsel has been filed.

Should the Court find him in contempt, ODC is asking that Albright's license be immediately suspended.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Case No. 34973

More News

The Record Network