Attorney previously disciplined for not responding to ethics inquiries

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 6, 2011

CHARLESTON – Prior to his suspension, records show Gregory G. Michael was admonished three times by the Bar including twice in 1997 for two complaints arising from the same case.

Two months before issuing its statement of charges related to Clarence E. Miller Jr.'s complaint, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board admonished Michael for failing to timely respond to a complaint filed against him by Anthony C. Owens on July 11, 2008. According to the complaint, Michael, who was appointed to represent Owens on a charge of first degree sexual abuse, failed to adequately represent Owens including filing a motion to dismiss his case.

Though the Board's investigative panel found no substance to Owens' complaint, it only obtained Michael's answer to it by issuing a subpoena.

Eleven years earlier, the Board admonished Michael for responding to an ethics complaint filed by a client, Jane A. Sine of Grafton, only after he was subpoenaed. On February 14, 1995, Sine alleged Michael filed her personal injury suit against the wrong party.

Ironically, the defendant in the suit, Steven R. Trippett, an employee of Petroleum Development Corporation of Bridgeport, nine months later, filed a complaint against Michael. In his complaint, Trippett alleged Michael stated in the 1994 lawsuit he filed on Sine's behalf said the result of a 1992 accident between them was due to his "youth, inexperience and lack of skill and judgment."

However, Trippett said a traffic accident report filed by police found the collision between he and Sine was the result of negligence of a third-party. According to the report, Trippett's truck rear-ended Sine's car as a result of him being rear-ended by a car driven by Billy DeMarco.

According the complaint, Petroleum Development Corp. was later dismissed from Sine's lawsuit, and DeMarco added.

Because Michael had a copy of the traffic report before filing the suit, the Board found Michael violated Rule 3.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct dealing with making allegations without any basis in fact. In issuing its admonishment on Oct. 17, 1997, the Board said Michael was aware the cause of the accident was not due to Trippett's actions, but instead DeMarco's whom he should have initially sued.

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