Fayette attorney readmitted to Bar after three-month suspension

By Lawrence Smith | Nov 25, 2011

CHARLESTON – A Fayette County attorney suspended for becoming romantically involved with a client has been allowed again to practice law.

The state Supreme Court on Nov. 9 accepted the recommendation of its Lawyer Disciplinary Board that Jennifer Day Hewitt be readmitted to the state Bar. In April, the Court suspended Hewitt for three months following an investigation by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel she not only had a sexual relationship with a client while representing him in his divorce and child custody case, but also accosted his ex-wife while also working part-time as an assistant Fayette County prosecutor.

According to court records, Hewitt, 39, while working for the Fayetteville law firm of Hamilton, Burgess, Young and Pollard in June 2008 agreed to take William Oxley's domestic relations case. In the course of representing him, Hewitt began a romantic and sexual relationship with Oxley going so far as to take their respective children on vacation together the next month.

Though Hewitt eventually relived herself from Oxley's domestic case, she continued to remain involved in his life. On Dec. 4, 2008, Hewitt accompanied Oxley to his ex-wife, Janice's house in Oak Hill after Janice did not return repeated William's repeated telephone calls inquiring when he could pick-up their children.

The resulting altercation between the three led to Janice calling police. According to court records, Hewitt, who was working part-time with the prosecutor's office while also working for Hamilton, Burgess, Young and Pollard, was arrested, and charged with assault, and brandishing a deadly weapon.

In exchange of a no contest plea to trespassing the assault and brandishing charges were dropped. Records show Hewitt was ordered to pay $259.53 in fines and court costs.

The day after her arrest Hewitt was fired as an assistant prosecutor.

As a condition of seeking reinstatement following her suspension, the Court ordered Hewitt undergo a psychological evaluation to determine her fitness to not only practice law, but also possess a concealed weapons permit. Should the evaluation prove she's unfit to possess one, she was to surrender it, and provide ODC evidence she did.

In its report released Oct. 19, the Board's hearing panel subcommittee said Hewitt had met all requirements for reinstatement including paying the cost of the disciplinary proceeding. Also, it said it was satisfied with the evidence she submitted, including evaluations by Dr. David Ellis, that he "will not repeat what has been a pattern of unhealthy conduct over the years."

"While the nature of the underlying charges were serious and deserving of sanctions of," the subcommittee said, "it is clear to the Hearing Panel that Ms. Hewitt has met her burden to demonstrate that she has rehabilitated herself and met the standards set forth above for reinstatement to the practice of law."

"Ms. Hewitt has demonstrated that she has matured as a result of being sanctioned and has gained skills to handle the embarrassment and other detrimental consequences of her conduct being publically aired," the subcommittee added.

"Moreover, she has addressed other emotional turmoil in her personal relationships in an appropriate and healthy manner."

Hewitt's reinstatement did come with some additional conditions. Those included she attend psychological counseling sessions every two weeks for a year starting in February.

Though she could counsel with someone other than Ellis, the Court he was to meet with her once toward the mid-point of her counseling and again near its conclusion. Also, the Court gave Ellis the discretion to shorten or extend the counseling period based on his evaluations.

Though they agreed to grant Hewitt's reinstatement, Chief Justice Margaret Workman and Justice Menis E. Ketchum wanted an additional condition she agree to relinquish her concealed carry permit, and not carry a concealed weapon.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 11-1170

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