Morgantown attorney surrenders license

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 1, 2012

CHARLESTON – Instead of contesting the multiple allegations of misconduct leveled against her, a Monongalia County attorney has decided to surrender her law license.

            The state Supreme Court on March 29 ordered the disbarment of Jennifer P. McGinley.  The decision came 10 days after McGinley, 41, a sole practitioner in Morgantown, petitioned the Court for her license to be voluntary annulled.

            McGinley's decision to surrender her license came amidst allegations she committed 17 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct from three separate cases between 2008 and 2010. A statement of charges the Court's Lawyer Disciplinary Board filed against her in September alleged McGinley submitted false evidence in an estate matter, converted funds from a personal injury settlement and represented clients with conflicting interests in a criminal case.

            The allegations in the false evidence in the estate matter stemmed from a complaint filed against McGinley by fellow Morgantown attorney Jacques Williams.  In his complaint, he alleged following the death of his sister-in-law Barbara Nelson on Jan. 30, 2008, McGinley presented him with what appeared to be Nelson's last will and testament.

            However, Williams maintained the purported will dated July 17, 2007, which named Kyle and Donna Ringer as beneficiaries was not witnessed, contained multiple errors that suggested other beneficiaries and had missing pages and clauses such as exact instructions Nelson left for the Ringers.  Williams was successful in challenging the validity of the will McGinley presented him.

In the summer of 2009, McGinley was accused by Rhoda Mae Marchant of writing her a worthless check for her portion of the proceeds in a lawsuit settlement with the Preston County Board of Education.  In April that year, the Board via its insurance carrier, agreed to pay Marchant $19,000 to settle a personal injury suit she brought on behalf of her son, Nathan Brown.

The terms of the settlement called for Marchant to keep $15,000, and the remainder paid to McGinley for her attorneys fees.

According to the statement, McGinley on May 22, 2009, wrote Brown a check for $15,000 and told him since the funds were being wired into her account, he could deposit the check after 5 p.m. The next day, Brown deposited the check keeping $2,000 in cash, and leaving the balance in his account.

However, a few days later, Brown received notice that McGinley's check was returned for insufficient funds. After threatening to bring suit against her in magistrate court, McGinley on June 3 met Marchant and Brown at the bank with a cashier's check for $10,500, and later wrote them a check for $4,824.27 from her office's operating account.

In response to Marchant's complaint, McGinley testified under oath that she transferred Brown's settlement funds from her operating account into an online escrow account where the $15,000 check was drawn, and the reason it was returned was due to another client cashing her settlement check the same day. However, bank records obtained in the course of investigating Marchant's complaint showed not only did McGinley fail to transfer $15,000 from her operating account into Brown's escrow account, but also the day the check cleared her account, it only had a balance of $3,322.87.

The final count in the statement stemmed from a complaint the Office of Disciplinary Counsel opened at the request of U.S. Magistrate Judge John S. Kaull, and U.S. District Judge Irene B. Keeley.   The pair forwarded orders they rendered removing McGinley as attorney for Michael Pavlock and Richard Powell, who were indicted by a federal grand jury in January 2010 on charges they operated a Ponzi scheme.

            Because McGinley not only was representing Pavlock and Powell, but also two of the principal investors, Robert Konchesky and his sister, Edith, the U.S. Attorney's Office moved to have her disqualified due to a conflict of interest.  Following Kaull's Feb. 19, 2010 recommendation, Keeley on April 1, granted the Office's motion saying "McGinley's conflicts in the case are so deep and numerous that she cannot impartially evaluate the defendant's individual claims."

In response to ODC's investigation, McGinley she said her disqualification "'is, and was, ridiculous, and I believe wholly unconstitutional.'"

"'I pray that I never, ever see anything like it again in my future practice of law,'" she added. "'I went to law school to protect the constitution not to watch those who are supposed to protect it trample upon it.'"

McGinley, who was first admitted to the Bar on April 23, 2002, can petition for readmission in 2017.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 12-0359 

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