Court suspends Monongalia attorney pending outcome of mental evaluation

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 24, 2012

CHARLESTON – The state Supreme Court has placed a Monongalia County attorney on temporary suspension while he undergoes a mental health evaluation.

The Court on Aug. 14 granted a petition filed the day before by its Office of Disciplinary Counsel to administratively suspend Travis R. Fitzwater. In its petition, ODC said the suspension was necessary as a mental hygiene commissioner on Aug. 11 found probable cause to order Fitzwater's involuntary hospitalization.

According to the petition, following the Aug. 11 hearing, Monongalia Mental Hygiene Commissioner Ailynn M. Orteza ordered Fitzwater, 38, who was admitted to the Bar on Oct. 11, 2001, placed in the custody of the state Department of Health and Human Resources and taken to Chestnut Ridge Hospital in Morgantown for evaluation. Though it does not say who swore out the mental hygiene warrant for him, the petition says his need for "involuntary hospitalization arises from mental" hygiene issues.

Since he is a sole practitioner "with important deadlines approaching," including an appeal to the Court by Aug. 15, ODC said immediate action was needed to protect his clients. As a result, the Court authorized Chief Monongalia Circuit Judge Susan Tucker to appoint another attorney to serve as trustee for all of Fitzwater's pending cases.

The order also put a hold on the one ethics complaint that has been filed against Fitzwater.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 12-0937

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