Hughes says nothing wrong with her helping ex in DUI case

By Lawrence Smith | Dec 23, 2011


CHARLESTON – The chief deputy state attorney general says there's nothing unusual or improper about her brief representation of her ex-husband, a Charleston attorney, in a pending drunk driving case.

Daniel Foster Hedges was charged with driving under the influence on July 19. According to the criminal complaint filed in Kanawha Magistrate Court, Hedges, 66, was stopped by Lt. C.E. Sisson of the Charleston Police Department at 8:48 p.m. after he noticed the 2008 Subaru Outback Hedges was driving down Virginia Street East did not have its headlights on and struck the curb on the 1100 block.

After stopping Hedges, Henderson said he could smell the odor of alcohol on Hedges' breath. When asked if he'd been drinking, Hedges "replied he had drank [sic] alcoholic beverages prior to driving."

After arriving on the scene, Cpl. R.G. Henderson, who filed the complaint, said he, too detected the odor of alcohol, and noticed Hedges' eyes appeared to be bloodshot. He then asked Hedges to step out of his vehicle and perform three field sobriety tests.

When Hedges failed all three, Henderson asked him to provide a preliminary breath test. According to the complaint, he was placed under arrest after he couldn't provide a sufficient sample.

After he was taken downtown, Hedges refused to take a secondary breath test. Later, he was taken across the street to magistrate court, charged with first offense DUI and released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.

Records show on Aug. 4, the first of at least two pleadings was made on Hedges' behalf by his ex-wife, Frances A. Hughes, the chief deputy attorney general. The pair filed for divorce in 1998.

The Aug. 4 pleading filed by Hughes asked that his trial scheduled for Sept. 27 be deferred to allow Hedges to participate in the Motor Vehicle Alcohol Test and Lock Program for 165 days following a 15-day suspension of his license. When Magistrate Joe Shelton did not immediately grant the motion, Hughes filed a consolidated motion for discovery on Sept. 23.

Apparently, Shelton at least took the motion under advisement as the last filing in the case was a notice of appearance by Charleston attorney John R. Mitchell Jr. replacing Hughes as Hedges' attorney. When contacted, Mitchell said, though he did not have information on the case immediately available, he recalled it was placed on a deferral status.

When contacted about her involvement in Hedges' case, Hughes said it was to ensure he had the assistance of counsel until another attorney -– in this case Mitchell -– could take over.

"I filed papers on his behalf to preserve his rights until he obtained representation," Hughes said. "There really wasn't anything to it. I did not appear in magistrate court."

Also, Hughes noted the work she performed for Hedges was done pro bono. Attorneys employed by the state are permitted to perform outside legal work so long as it doesn't conflict with their job, it's done without pay and they inform the judge or magistrate they are working in their personal, and not official capacity, Hughes said.

In fact, Hughes said she has from, time-to-time, done pro bono work outside her duties with the Attorney General's Office. Aside from Hedges' case, she said more recently she helped someone with an uncontested divorce.

"That's a responsibility that I believe that I have as a lawyer is to help people who can't afford representation is to take pro bono cases every once in awhile," Hughes said.

In 1982, Hedges gained notice after successfully appealing the dismissal of a class-action lawsuit challenging the state's school-aid formula to the state Supreme Court. Originally filed in Lincoln Circuit Court in 1975, Hedges argued that the children of Janet Pauley, the lead plaintiff in the case, were not receiving a "thorough and efficient" education like children in more urban, and affluent counties.

After finding the school-aid formula was unconstitutional, the Court then appointed Ohio Circuit Judge Arthur Recht to hear testimony on how to make public education funding among the state's 55 counties more equitable. Though styled as Pauley v. Bailey, the case became known as "the Recht decision" after the Court in December 1984 approved the state Department of Education's public education master plan based on recommendations made in Recht's opinion.

After working for the Appalachian Research, Education and Defense Fund, Hedges in 1996 formed Mountain State Justice, another non-profit law firm that provides legal services to people with low incomes. Located in Charleston with a satellite office in Clarksburg, Mountain State Justice provides legal assistance in mostly consumer protection cases, including debt collection, and mortgage lending practices.

Kanawha Magistrate Court case number 11-M-6732

More News

The Record Network