CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has decided a Wood County attorney's misconduct warrants suspension not just for part of a year, but a full year.
The Court on Feb. 11 ordered the suspension of Joseph P. Albright Jr.'s license for a year. Last month, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board asked Albright be suspended as punishment for committing 17 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the cases of David K. Samuels, Richard F. Hart, Marlene and Mitchell Grondalski, Grant DeGarmo, Jennifer Cooper, Mary B. Hardesty and Beth Agnew.
The Board charged Albright with committing Rules violations dealing with misconduct, declining or terminating representation, expediting litigation and communication. In all the cases, he was charged with one count of failing to respond to an ethics inquiry.
However, the Board asked that Albright only be suspended for three months. In an unsigned, unanimous opinion, the Court said a three-month suspension was inadequate for not punishment, but also in reassuring the public about the disciplinary process.
"[W]e find that a three-month license suspension simply does not serve the purpose of protecting and reassuring the public, especially in this case where Mr. Albright has had previous disciplinary actions against him," the Court said.
"Based on the pervasive lack of response to his clients, as well as Mr. Albright's continued disregard to requests by both the ODC and this Court, all indiscretions which occurred in both the previous and the instant disciplinary action, we find that a one-year license suspension is appropriate."
Prior to the current suspension, the court in January 2007, reprimanded Albright for failing to communicate with three clients, including a Florida woman who was heir to the estate of a Parkersburg man. In addition to the reprimand, the Court ordered Albright to close the estate and provide the Office of Disciplinary Counsel a quarterly update of his progress.
In December 2009, the Board asked that Albright be held in contempt for failing to comply with the Court's 2007 order. Though it ordered the immediate suspension of his license as punishment for the contempt finding, the Court placed a 120-day stay on it to allow Albright time to settle the estate.
Records show it was settled last January.
Though it ordered a longer suspension for Albright, the Court did agree with the Board's recommendation for additional sanctions. The Court ordered prior to reinstatement he take an additional nine hours of continuing education with a emphasis on office management, make restitution to Samuels and Cooper for $600, and $1,200, respectively, meet with a licensed psychologist approved by the Board, and upon reinstatement have his practice supervised for two years.
Albright, 48, who was first admitted to the state Bar in 1988, is the son of Justice Joseph P. Albright Sr. who died in March 2009 after a battle with esophageal cancer. He did not participate in the Court's 2007 decision.
According to ODC, Albright Jr. still has 12 open complaints.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 35282