Suit accuses Albright Jr. again of mishandling estate case

By Lawrence Smith | Oct 21, 2011

PARKERSBURG – A suspended Wood County attorney is again in legal trouble over his failure to timely settle an estate.

Scott Allen Marks filed suit against Joseph P. Albright Jr. in Wood Circuit Court. In his complaint filed Sept. 30, Marks, as the administrator of the Paul W. Smith estate, alleges that Albright, while serving as the estate's executor between 2008 and 2010, not only converted nearly $15,000 from the estate for his personal use, but also failed to file the estate's tax return in 2009.

An ethics complaint filed against Albright with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel by one of Smith's heirs was among the reasons the state Supreme Court earlier this year ordered the suspension of his license.

$122,000 for 'no work'

According the suit, Albright became executor of the estate when he paid a portion of the $7,680 bond fee on July 31, 2008, following Smith's death the month earlier. Albright served as executor for the next two years.

However, Marks alleges during that time Albright "performed no work on behalf of" the estate. Nevertheless, Albright wrote 35 checks totaling $122,600 "to himself as payment for alleged executor fees."

According to the suit, the Wood County Commission on June 14, 2010, ordered Albright removed as the executor, and appointed Marks as administrator. Six weeks later, Albright returned all but $14,600 to the estate's checking account.

Part of Albright's duties as the executor was to file the estate's tax return. Smith alleges he failed to file the 2008 return thus creating a $248.83 liability for the estate.

In his suit, Marks seeks judgment against Albright for $22,528.32, including recovery of the bond fee. He and the estate are represented by Joseph T. Santer with the Parkersburg law firm of Santer and Santer.

The case is assigned to Judge J.D. Beane.

History of trouble

In February, the Court placed Albright on a year's suspension. The suspension was based in part on a complaint Steilacoom, Wash., resident Beth Agnew, an heir to Smith's estate, filed against Albright alleging he failed to communicate with her about his progress in settling it.

The Smith estate is not the first he was disciplined for mishandling.

In 1999, ODC found Albright committed a violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct in failing to keep Parkersburg resident Genevieve Cross about his status in settling the estate of Jeanne Johnson.

However, ODC opted not to pursue formal disciplinary charges against Albright, but instead cautioned him "to diligently handle such matters in the future and to be more careful about explaining matters to heirs."

Albright failed to heed the advice as in 2007 he was reprimanded by the Court for failing to communicate with three clients, including Rita A. Ramsey of Orlando, Fla., a beneficiary to the estate of Clyde Curtis Carter, a Parkersburg resident who died in 1985. Ramsey, Carter's step-granddaughter, filed her complaint against Albright in 2004 after he failed to return her repeated telephone calls from the previous 15 months.

In the course of its investigation, ODC found that, despite receiving permission to take over the duties from his father, Joseph P. Albright Sr., in 2003, Albright Jr. by June 2006 had yet to qualify as the estate's executor.

Albright Sr., who was appointed executor in July 1999 following removal of Carter's grandson, Kenneth Clyde Carter, had to relinquish all his cases after he was elected to the state Supreme Court the next year.

Because of their relationship, Albright Sr. was disqualified from hearing the disciplinary case. On March 20, 2009, he died in Pittsburgh due to complications of esophageal cancer.

Nine months later, the Court held Albright Jr. in contempt for failing to comply with conditions of its 2007 reprimand that he settle the Carter estate, and provide ODC a quarterly update of his progress. As punishment, it ordered the immediate suspension of his license.

However, the Court placed a 120-day stay on enforcement of its order provided Albright could settle the estate by then. Records show he did the next month.

Wood Circuit Court case number 11-C-447

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