Ky. attorney's W. Va. license suspended for 30 days

By Lawrence Smith | Mar 17, 2011

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has concurred with Kentucky's high court in suspending an Ashland attorney's license for 30 days.

The Court on Feb. 24 accepted the recommendation of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board that Rodney Justice's West Virginia license be suspended for 30 days. The Board made the recommendation based on a similar decision tendered by the Supreme Court of Kentucky last year for his failure to return a client's retainer in an estate case.

According to the Kentucky Court's order suspending him, Alta Galloway hired Justice on July 14, 2004, to probate the estate of her father Frank James Jr., who died on May 20, 2003. She paid him a $500 retainer.

Following the death for her mother, Alta M. James, a year later, Galloway paid Justice another $5,000 to probate her estate. Two months later, Galloway paid Justice another $4,000 to settle both estates.

In August 2006, the Kentucky Court suspended Justice for 30 days when he failed to refund the unearned portion of a client's fee in an unrelated case. According to the order, Galloway learned of the suspension "from other sources" and eventually hired another attorney, Frank H. Warnock who closed the estates on April 19, 2007.

Galloway paid Warnock an additional $1,200.

On an unspecified date following the estates' closing, Galloway's daughter, Madlyn Zaiser, failed an ethics complaint against Justice with the Kentucky Bar Association's Client Security Fund. She alleged Justice failed to return her mother's telephone calls, complete her grandparents' estates and charged an unreasonable fee.

Though the KBA's Inquiry Commission on Dec. 28, 2008, charged Justice with four violations of the Kentucky Rules of Professional Conduct – diligence, communication, fees and terminating representation, the KBA's Board of Governors on Oct. 19, 2009 only found him guilty of failing to terminate representation. It determined while she never requested it, Justice should have offered to refund Galloway any unearned portion of his retainer once his suspension began.

Along with a 30-day suspension, the Board recommended Justice refund Galloway $4,000, attend the KBA's Ethics and Professionalism Enhancement Program and reimburse the KBA $2,314.30 for the disciplinary proceeding. The Kentucky Court accepted the Board's recommendation on Jan. 21, 2010.

Six days later, Justice notified the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel of his suspension in Kentucky. Though he was given an opportunity to challenge any potential reciprocal action the West Virginia Court might take, Justice, 62, declined.

In its order, the Court said Justice's West Virginia license was to be reinstated at the end of the 30-day suspension, and once he's provided to ODC's satisfaction his Kentucky license is in good standing. He was admitted to the state Bar on April 29, 1975.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 35502

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