Burkhammer seeks reinstatement of ethics complaint against Randolph attorney

By Lawrence Smith | Dec 22, 2010

CHARLESTON -– A Lewis County businessman is asking the state Bar reconsider its decision dismissing an ethics complaint he filed against one of his former attorneys from a 2008 criminal case.

In October, Jerry Burkhammer filed a complaint against Dwight Hall, of Elkins, and Chad Cissel, of Keyser, with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the Bar's investigative arm. In his complaint, Burkhammer alleges neither Hall nor Cissel seemed to take his case seriously.

Following Burkhammer's arrest on charges of attempt to commit conspiracy, and violation of a protective order in July 2007, Hall was appointed to represent him. In his complaint, Burkhammer alleges Hall did little to prepare for the case including making a motion to have Tucker County Magistrate Carol D. Irons resuced.

Since she served as a bailiff during a previous abuse and neglect case against him, and he later confided to her how he was being mistreated by the legal system, Burkhammer maintains Irons had a conflict in hearing his case.

Following his conviction on the violation of a protective order charge in July 2008, and subsequent appeal to Tucker Circuit Court, Hall withdrew as Burkhammer's attorney. Cissel was later appointed to help him file an appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Though he asked Cissel to address Irons' conflict of interest, and the constitutionality of Judge Philip B. Jordan's order barring him from entering Tucker County, Burkhammer says Cissel never did. Instead, he only addressed the harshness of Burkhammer's sentence absent a prior criminal conviction, and Hall's ineffective assistance of counsel.

The Court denied Burkhammer's appeal in February 2009, three weeks after he was released from jail.

ODC on Oct. 18 informed Burkhammer while it would investigate his complaint against Cissel, it was dismissing the one against Hall. Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel Jessica H. Donahue said Burkhammer missed filing a timely complaint against Hall by three months.

"It appears from the letters and documents that you attached to your complaint, you requested Mr. Hall to withdraw from your case in July 2008 due to his failure to return your calls or answer your letters," Donahue said.

"It appears that you were aware of Mr. Hall's alleged failure to communicate in July of 2008. Thus, your complaint appears to be time-barred."

In his letter to ODC dated Dec. 18, Burkhammer said his issue with Hall was not only failing to communicate with him prior to trial, but for also zealously representing him. Since neither Hall nor Cissel addressed Irons' alleged conflict of interest, and the Supreme Court denied his appeal in February 2009, Burkhammer maintains he met the statute of limitations by four months.

"It's my understanding that the statute of limitations on filing a complaint is two years or when I reasonably knew the misconduct took place," Burkhammer said. "In my case, the clock started ticking in February 2009 when the Supreme Court denied my appeal."

"I cannot see the logic of how you can allow my complaint against Mr. Cissel to go forward yet dismiss it against Mr. Hall," Burkhammer added. "Their actions, or lack thereof, are intertwined."

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