Attorney's hearing, bankruptcy statements contradict each other

By Lawrence Smith | Jul 23, 2009


CHARLESTON - Through her own testimony given at a recent hearing seeking dismissal of legal malpractice suit against her, a state Tax Department attorney may have falsified information on the bankruptcy she filed last year.

During a June 30 hearing in Kanawha Circuit Court, Ellen F. Golden gave Donald McCune a check for $200. The check was a goodwill gesture for the $730 McCune alleges he paid Golden in 2003 to file bankruptcy for him, but never did.

McCune, 66, a retired businessman who now lives on Social Security, first filed suit against Golden in Kanawha Magistrate Court in August 2008 to recoup the fee. However, the case was transferred to circuit court in November after McCune asked for interest and punitive damages "for all the trouble she caused me."

After he questioned McCune about what he hoped to gain from the suit, Judge Charles E. King asked Golden if she would still be willing to file it for him. Because she was now working for the Tax Department, Golden said she couldn't, but "could see to it that someone could file it."

When King followed up asking her if she would be able to refund McCune's fee, Golden said she was prepared, at least in part, to do that with money she was holding in trust for him.

"Would you be able to refund his money?" King asked.

"Yes," Golden replied. "And actually, Your Honor, I have two. At that time the filing fee was $200, and I do have that to give to him, because that's the client's money."

"What do you mean?" King asked.

"That was held in trust for him," Golden said.

However, Golden holding money in trust for McCune, or for any other client, is contradicted by statements made in her bankruptcy.

According the petition she filed on January 29, 2008 for her firm, Golden Law Office, of the $3,301 listed in personal property, $501 came from two checking accounts with BB & T. One account was for general business use, and contained $500 while the remaining $1 was in a "client trust account."

Also, in the space on the petition set aside to "list all property owned by another person that the debtor owns or controls," Golden checked the box marked "none." Records show Golden's petition, which she signed under penalty of perjury for any false statements, was discharged on Sept. 23, 2008, three weeks after she started work as an attorney for the Tax Department.

Prior to asking if she would still file McCune's bankruptcy or refund his money, King elicited a confession from Golden that, to date, McCune was still her client.

"Have you ever discharged him as a client?" King asked.

"No, Your Honor, I didn't," Golden answered.

"Has he ever gotten, sent you a letter discharging you as his lawyer?" King inquired.

"No," Golden replied.

The West Virginia Record attempted to get a comment from Golden about the discrepancies between the statements she made during the hearing, and on her bankruptcy. However, when contacted via telephone, she abruptly hung up.

Kanawha Circuit Court, Case No. 08-C-3187; U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Case No. 08-bk-20055

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