Marion Co. attorney disbarred for sexual encounter with inmate

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 17, 2010

CHARLESTON -- The state Supreme Court has stripped a Marion County attorney of his law license for his sexual encounter with an inmate.

The Court on June 10 ordered that G. Patrick Stanton Jr. of Fairmont be disbarred from the practice of law. In an unsigned, unanimous opinion, the Court agreed with the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, the prosecutorial arm of the state Bar, that Stanton's deceit in visiting the inmate for the purpose of having a sexual encounter was "inexcusable," but felt the Board's recommendation of admonishment was too lenient since his "actions fueled a wave of questions by the public."

According to court records, Stanton visited Rose Auvil when she was an inmate at the Pruntytown Correctional Center in Grafton on Oct. 11, 2005. At the time, Auvil was incarcerated on unspecified charges from convictions in Taylor and Marion counties.

During the Board's investigation, Stanton admitted he had a long-standing relationship with Auvil going back to 1986. It was then they first had sexual relationship, and starting in 1992, he represented her in legal matters.

Stanton served as Auvil's attorney until May 2004 when he accepted a position as an assistant prosecutor in Marion County. Records show Stanton served in that position until July 2005 when was appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin to be the first state director of the Office of Consumer Advocacy, the agency that represents citizens in administrative hearings before the state Insurance Commission.

Prior to his arrival, Stanton called PCC to schedule an attorney-inmate visit with Auvil. After arriving at PCC, in which he presented both this driver's license and state Bar ID card, records show Stanton listed himself as "attorney" on the sign-in sheet, and was escorted to a multi-purpose room 10 minutes later to meet her.

The substance of their conversation centered on the location of Auvil's personal belongings and automobile since her incarceration. Records are unclear as to how long they were together.

Nevertheless, as he was preparing to leave, Auvil said how appreciative she was of Stanton's efforts to help, and started to unzip his pants. After Stanton unzipped his pants when the zipper became stuck, Auvil then performed oral sex on him.

Records show the pair's encounter was interrupted by a corrections officer who was monitoring their visitation. Before his departure, the warden asked Stanton to remain and answer questions from police.

Though the matter was later to referred to both the West Virginia State Police and the Taylor County Prosecutor's Office, records show Stanton was never charged criminally in connection with his encounter with Auvil. However, the Board's Hearing Panel Subcommittee determined probable cause existed to charge Stanton with an ethics violation, and on June 21, 2008, issued a statement of charges against him for violating Rule 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

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,"
the Board recommended he be admonished. It also recommended he take six hours of additional continuing education during the 2008-2010 period, and pay for the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

Stanton's attorney Gregory H. Shillance voiced no objections to the Board's recommendations saying that the four years the matter has hung over Stanton's head is punishment enough. According to the Associated Press, Stanton resigned his as OCA's director two days after his encounter with Auvil citing an attempt to avoid "the giggle factor."

However, because it has never been presented the kind of issues involved in a disciplinary case like Stanton's, the Court believed admonishment was not a harsh enough punishment. Given Stanton's level of deceit, the Court said anything less than annulment would set a bad precedent.

"Furthermore, this Court must assist in protecting the vulnerable, especially those in State custody, from the lustful advances of attorneys as well as maintaining the good relationship between the criminal bar and the state's jail and prison authorities," the Court said. "The recommended disposition of the Board does not accomplish these goals.

"Accepting any sanction other than disbarment does not send a clear and resounding message to the bar, the public and other interested parties, including jail and prison authorities who must work with attorneys on a daily basis."

Along with the annulment, the Court ordered that Stanton pay the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Stanton, 76, who was first admitted to the Bar on Sept. 11, 1979, is eligible to reapply for readmission in 2015.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 34257

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