Court disbars former Charleston attorney

By Lawrence Smith | Jan 28, 2011

CHARLESTON – For engaging in a repeated pattern of deception to his clients, his colleagues and himself, the state Supreme Court has disbarred a former Charleston attorney.

Nearly a year after they first suspended him, the Court on Jan. 13 ordered the disbarment of Scott Palmer Mason. The Court's action came in response to an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that found Mason, 39, abandoned at least two clients, dishonored an agreement with two attorneys and received multiple convictions for drug- and alcohol-related charges.

Records show ODC brought a six-count statement of charges against Mason on Dec. 28, 2009, charging him with 20 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct including safekeeping of property, expediting litigation, diligence, communication and responding to a disciplinary inquiry. A statement of charges acts like an indictment for disciplinary purposes.

Client abandonment

According to the statement, Mason failed to diligently represent or adequately communicate with Glenn W. Tanner and Bruce R. Jensen in their respective cases. Mason was appointed to represent Tanner in a criminal case in Clay County, and Jensen paid Mason a $2,500 to represent him in an unspecified civil matter in Kanawha County.

Following Tanner's conviction for grand larceny, Mason was appointed to represent him in 2007 to help him first file a motion for re-sentencing, then an appeal. When Mason failed to do that, Tanner filed a pro se motion for re-sentencing on Oct. 1, 2007.

In the complaint he later filed, Tanner said Mason never contacted him about helping with his case or returned any of his 40 phone calls. In his response, Mason denied Tanner's allegations.

Nevertheless, the Court on Dec. 9, 2008, deferred a decision on Tanner's pro se motion for re-sentencing, and ordered Mason to file a response to the motion within 30 days. However, he never did.

Three months before the Court ordered him to take action in Tanner's case, Mason performed his only action in Jensen's suit which was file an answer. In the subsequent complaint he filed, Jensen said Mason filed to return any of his phone calls, and his wages were being garnished following an unfavorable judgment.

According to the statement, Mason responded to Jensen's complaint saying he had relocated to Kentucky, obtained new counsel, and "'would be in touch in the coming days.'" However, he failed to respond to a follow-up letter ODC sent to the Kentucky address via certified mail.

Stiffing fellow attorneys

About the time he was appointed in Tanner's Case, Mason contacted Ben Leonard on July 5, 2007, to work with him on an unspecified criminal case in Madisonville, Ky. According to the statement, Mason agreed to pay Leonard $120 an hour.

When Mason failed to pay him $2,108.11 for his services when the case concluded in Aug. 2007, Leonard first filed a complaint with ODC in March 2008, and later a civil suit in Hopkins County District Court in June. Mason neither responded to an e-mail ODC sent him on May 6, 2008, asking him to respond to Leonard's complaint nor to a subpoena he appear at the July 28 hearing in Leonard's suit.

In addition to Leonard, Andrew R. Helminiak with the Milwaukee, Wisc., law firm of Stupar, Schuster and Cooper had issues with Mason. According to the statement, his firm agreed to pay Mason a $2,500 non-refundable retainer and $165 an hour to perform collection work for Jacobus Energy.

When he attempted to get an update on the collection efforts in early 2008, Helminiak said Mason knew nothing about it, and it was being handled by his partner, Rico Moore. On unspecified dates, Helminiak attempted to contact both Mason and Moore all to no avail.

After hiring another firm to perform the collection work, Helminiak learned Mason performed minimal work, and made improper filings. Like with Jensen's and Leonard's, Mason failed to respond to Helminiak's complaint.

Three drug charges in four years

In the midst of complaints lodged against him by Tanner, Jensen and Leonard, Mason was charged in Kanawha Magistrate Court on separate charges of possession of a controlled substance. Records show he was first arrested on June 18, 2008, for possession of marijuana, and later on September 25 for possession of cocaine.

On the latter charge, the cocaine was found when a Charleston Police officer arrested him on a warrant for domestic battery stemming from a physical altercation with his girlfriend, Elizabeth Carson, nine days before.

Court records show, in exchange for him pleading no contest to cocaine possession, and guilty to the domestic battery, the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office agreed to drop the marijuana possession charge. On April 22, 2009, Mason was sentenced to one year unsupervised probation, and ordered to pay a $50 fine and $369.06 in court costs.

One of the stipulations of Mason's sentence was he pay the fine and court costs within 180 days. When he failed to that, the Magistrate Clerk's Office filed a lien against him on Jan 11, 2010.

According to the statement, prior to his arrest in Kanawha County, Mason was arrested on Aug. 19, 2005, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. on cocaine possession charges. In that case, Mason took advantage of a diversion program in which the charge would be dismissed if he plead guilty, and successfully complete one year of probation.

Records show after pleading guilty on Sept. 14, 2005, the charge was dismissed on Aug. 31, 2006.

A month after the statement was filed, ODC asked that Mason's license be immediately suspended. In its motion, ODC stated that prior to filing the statement, Mason was convicted on Sept. 3, 2009, on charges of drunk driving in Warren County, Ken. Circuit Court, and was practicing law in Tennessee without a license.

According the state Bar's Web site, Mason's current address is 103 Academy Square in Nashville. A directory search shows Mason, and Melissa Long, a licensed member of the Tennessee Bar, with telephone numbers assigned to that address.

In addition to disbarment, the Court ordered Mason pay Leonard $2,108.11 plus seven percent annual interest, and the cost of the disciplinary proceeding.

Also, the Court ordered should Mason, who was first admitted to the Bar on Sept. 24, 2002, be readmitted after sitting out for the required five years, his practice be supervised for two years, including an audit of all his business financial accounts and he reimburse ODC $533.68 for the emergency hearing it conducted on the abandonment of his practice.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 35452

More News

The Record Network