Charleston attorney accused of fraudulent filings in Putnam divorce

By Lawrence Smith | May 4, 2012

L. Ranson


WINFIELD – A Charleston attorney -- who is a former circuit judge -- is accused of engaging in fraud and deception by filing judgments for recovery of fees she was denied in another attorney's divorce.

Lyne Ranson and the Lyne Ranson Law Offices are named as co-defendants in an abuse of process lawsuit filed March 30 by Albert C. Dunn Jr.

In his complaint filed in Putnam Circuit Court, Dunn, 48, a Fraziers Bottom resident who works in the Charleston office of Allen, Kopet and Associates, alleges Ranson, 58, twice fraudulently filed judgments in the Putnam County Clerk's Office to collect on fees she incurred in representing Dunn's ex-wife, Nancy.

According to his suit, Albert filed for divorce from Nancy in February 2009. Their divorce was finalized two years later.

Prior to that, Ranson on an unspecified date filed a motion with Putnam Family Law Judge William H. "Chip" Watkins III to grant her an award of $51,430.87 in attorneys fees. Records show on Aug. 30, 2010, Watkins granted Ranson's motion "without a response from [Albert] and without [Albert] being given a hearing to oppose the motion."

Sometime thereafter, Albert appealed Watkins' ruling to circuit court which reversed Watkins' ruling on the attorneys fees, and remanded the case back to him. The suit does not specify if the appeal was assigned to O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding or Phillip M. Stowers.

Nevertheless, Watkins held a remand hearing on Feb. 6, 2011, in which, among other things, Ranson's motion for attorneys fees was considered. According to the suit, upon conclusion of the hearing, Watkins opted to take matters under advisement in lieu of issuing a ruling.

Despite the circuit court's ruling to the contrary, Ranson on Feb. 18 "improperly and unlawfully" filed an abstract of judgment with the county clerk for her legal fees plus seven percent interest from Aug. 30, 2010. In his suit, Dunn maintains Ranson never informed him of the judgment.

In fact, Albert avers it was Nancy who later informed him of the judgment when, after he agreed to sign over title to their home in Hurricane plus the two mortgages, that a title search by one of the lenders discovered it. Until he paid her the $51,430.87 in legal fees, Albert said Ranson refused to remove the judgment from the clerk's office.

However, Ranson relented after Watkins ordered the judgment vacated. Records show that occurred on April 14, 2011.

According to the suit, the terms of the Dunn's divorce was that along with refinancing the mortgages, Nancy was to pay Albert $12,500. Upon receiving the $12,500, Albert was to then pay Nancy $15,000 to cover Ranson's fees.

After he signed over title, and Nancy closed the loan on refinancing the mortgages, Albert says he tendered a check to her for $2,500 as payment in full on Ranson's fees. However, Nancy on an unspecified dated not only returned the $2,500 check, but also tendered one to Albert "totaling less than $12,500" asking him to "pay Ranson the $15,000 directly."

After receiving the $15,000 from Albert, Ranson on Nov. 16 submitted an ex parte order to Watkins asking she be awarded $40,000 in legal fees from Dunn. In her proposed order, Albert says Ranson made two intentional misstatements.

First, was her assertion that the "Circuit Court did not reverse the attorney fee award to counsel for Ms. Dunn" and "Mr. Dunn has not been relieved of the payment of attorney fees and costs." Second, was her claim that the reason for filing the second motion for attorneys fees was that Albert "is again filing bankruptcy regarding his payment of attorney fees and costs."

In his suit, Albert avers he "has not filed for bankruptcy protection and has no intention to do so."

According to the suit, Watkins on Dec. 16 granted Ranson's second motion for attorneys fees despite never holding a hearing on it, nor providing Albert a notice it was filed. Records show Ranson filed an abstract of judgment against Albert for $40,000 plus seven percent interest with the clerk's office on Jan. 18.

In his suit, Dunn alleges Ranson's actions have caused him "emotional distress, annoyance, and inconvenience." Along with ones for abuse of process and fraud, Albert makes claims against Ranson, and her firm for slander of title, defamation, outrageous conduct, negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.

Dunn seeks unspecified damages, attorney fees and court costs. He is representing himself.

The case is assigned to Senior Status Judge James O. Holliday.

A former assistant U.S. Attorney, Ranson in 1992 successfully ran for Kanawha circuit judge. Five years later, she resigned amidst revelations she played a role in planting recording devices in the office of her husband, J. Michael Ranson, in an attempt to gain evidence he was having an affair with his then-paralegal, Cynthia Salmons.

Following his divorce from Lyne, Michael married Salmons who later obtained a law degree, and became a partner in their firm, the Ranson Law Offices. The Ranson's daughter, Brittany Nichole, a 2010 West Virginia University College of Law graduate, works with Lyne in her office.

Putnam Circuit Court case number 12-C-101

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