CHARLESTON – In a last-minute bid to save his law license, Joseph Albright Jr. distributed an estate he should have distributed years ago.
Albright, a Parkersburg attorney, signed checks for beneficiaries on Sept. 21, two days before a hearing at the Supreme Court of Appeals on a recommendation to suspend his license.
His lawyer, George Chandler of Parkersburg, brought copies of the checks and affidavits to the Supreme Court of Appeals on Sept. 23.
"Should this have been done sooner?," Chandler said with Albright beside him. "Yes."
Rachel Cipoletti of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, who recommended Albright's suspension in April, said he still hasn't obeyed an order of the Court from 2007.
Cipoletti didn't know when she arrived for the hearing that he had distributed the estate, and the sight of the checks rattled her.
"He has not finalized the estate," she told the Justices.
"For two years I bird-dogged Mr. Albright to complete it," she said. "The estate is still open and awaits resolution."
She said Albright didn't prepare an accounting that the Court ordered.
Justice Thomas McHugh said, "What do you want us to do?"
Cipoletti asked for suspension.
"His flagrant disregard for this court's order of January 10, 2007, is completely ridiculous," she said.
She said the estate had been open since 1985 or 1986, with no action since 2008.
McHugh asked if Wood County commissioners approved the distribution. She said she assumed they did not.
McHugh asked if it had no value to the court until it was approved. She said that was right and she didn't believe the county commission would approve it.
Chandler said he received Cipoletti's petition a day before the hearing.
Albright's former counsel, Sherri Goodman of Charleston, had withdrawn.
Chandler said the county fiduciary commissioner told him he received a report that looked fine and he would publish a notice in December.
Chandler said Joseph Albright Sr., the late Supreme Court Justice, was the executor. He said Joseph Junior was appointed in June 2008.
"I really didn't want to get into this," he said.
Cipoletti said Joseph Junior stipulated that he was responsible for the estate since 2003.
She said she waited on him out of respect for Justice Albright.
"I am not going to stand here and listen to Justice Albright being the one responsible for this not going forward," she said.
McHugh asked if she wanted the court to wait for the county commission to meet.
Justice Menis Ketchum said Albright completed the estate.
Justice Robin Davis said, "She didn't know that until 20 minutes ago."
Ciploetti said, "I had not heard from him since last September."
Ketchum asked if either side objected to tendering the affidavits to the Court.
"I'm just curious," he said. "I want to see them."
Cipoletti said, "That's fine with me. I just want the order complied with."
She said, "I just don't want the order of 2007 treated as empty noise."
The Justices did not immediately place the affidavits in the record.
They took Albright's discipline under advisement.