Bar seeks admonishment for attorney, former state consumer advocate for sexual encounter with inmate

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 8, 2010

CHARLESTON - The state Bar is asking a Clarksburg attorney and former state official be punished for fraudulently representing to correctional officers he needed to meet with an alleged client only to have sex with her.

Among the cases the state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear when it returns for its Spring term on Jan. 12, is Lawyer Disciplinary Board v. G. Patrick Stanton Jr. The Board, the Bar's prosecutorial arm, is asking the Court to admonish Stanton, 76, for his 2005 visit to the Pruntytown Correctional Center where he allegedly received oral sex from an inmate.

The incident, records show, occurred shortly after Stanton was appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin to be the state's director of the Office of Consumer Advocacy, the agency that represents citizens in administrative hearings before the state Insurance Commission..

Long-standing relationship

According to court records, Stanton made a visit to Rose Auvil on Oct. 11, 2005, when she was inmate at PCC, a minimum security prison near Grafton. After he was cleared, Stanton was led to a multipurpose room where Auvil was waiting for him.

A short time later, the officer returned to the room where he saw Auvil performing oral sex on Stanton. He, along with another officer, entered the room, and told Stanton to leave.

As he was leaving, records show, the warden informed Staton the encounter between he and Auvil was recorded. At a date not specified, the warden referred the matter to the West Virginia State Police, and the Taylor County Prosecutor's Office.

According to the Board, Stanton gave officers every indication he was Auvil's attorney prior to and during his visit. This includes contacting PCC 40 minutes prior to his arrival he was scheduling an attorney/inmate visit, and providing, in addition his driver's license, his state Bar card, as identification.

Stanton and Auvil, the Board avers, have a history going back over 20 years. Their first sexual encounter was in 1986, and Stanton represented Auvil "on various matters over the years beginning in 1992" in which he would not always charge a fee.

The last time Stanton represented Auvil was for an unspecified criminal case in 2003. It is unclear if the case is related to Auvil's incarceration at PCC.

However, records show Stanton resigned as Auvil's attorney on that case when he accepted a position at the Marion County Prosecutor's Office in May 2004. Apparently, Auvil was placed in other facilities following her conviction as Stanton denied having any sexual encounters with her other than the one at PCC.

Political, legal fallout

After a year at the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, newly elected Gov. Manchin appointed Stanton as OCA director on July 28, 2005. According to The Associated Press, Stanton, denied any wrongdoing once the encounter between he and Auvil became public, but resigned on Oct. 13, 2005, citing the "giggle factor."

"I'm resigning because I came down here to help Gov. Manchin, and I don't want to embarrass him or the administration in any way," Stanton said.

Though Stanton, who was first admitted to the Bar on Sept. 11, 1979, was never charged criminally for the incident, the Board's Hearing Panel Subcommittee determined there was sufficient evidence to charge him with a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, Stanton was charged on June 21, 2008, with one count of violating Rule 8.4, misconduct.

Since Stanton's " misconduct clearly demonstrates an appalling lack of judgment, discretion and concern for his own personal integrity and calls into question his fitness as a member of the Bar," Chief Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Rachel L. Fletcher Cipoletti, in her brief to the Court, suggested admonishment as the most appropriate punishment. She also recommended Stanton take an additional six hours of continuing education for the 2008-2010 period and reimburse the Board the cost of the disciplinary proceedings.

No objection

In his reply brief, Gregory H. Shillance, a Clarksburg attorney representing Stanton, said Stanton has no objection to the Board's recommendations as the four years the case has been hanging over his head has been punishment enough.

"The respondent never requested any continuance or delay of this proceeding, therefore, this proceeding has been at the forefront of the respondent's life, both professional and personally for almost four years," Shillance said.

"The respondent believes some consideration must be given as during this interim period, he and his family have been unable to conclude this matter, and begin the process of putting it behind them."

Three discipline cases

The Stanton case is one of three attorney discipline cases the Court is scheduled to hear Jan. 12. In fact, all three top the Court's docket that day.

Following Stanton, the Court will hear the Board's cases against Jeffrey L. Barton, and Kenneth E. Chittum. Barton, and Chittum are lawyers in Nitro, and Bluefield, respectfully,

Barton is accused of converting money awarded to a former client in a personal injury lawsuit for his personal use. The conversion of funds came after the woman died, and he charged the estate a fee when the administratrix requested an accounting of funds belonging to it.

The case against Chittum involves allegations he attempted to cultivate a sexual relationship with a female inmate in which was appointed as guardian ad litem for her divorce case, and failing to items belonging to her in a timely manner. Also, Chittum is accused of co-mingling a $200,000 settlement his wife was awarded in a personal injury case with his business funds.

The Board is asking Barton be disbarred, and Chittum be reprimanded.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 34257

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