CHARLESTON – In a per curiam opinion issued Dec. 17, the state Supreme Court rejected the one-year suspension recommendation of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board, instead finding that attorney David A. Aleshire’s conduct warranted a three-year suspension from the practice of law.
Aleshire was admitted to the West Virginia Bar in May 1995 and practiced in Charleston.
On July 7, 2010, Aleshire had a two-count statement of ethical violations filed against him.
The first count concerned Aleshire’s conduct with client Nedra Vance, who in 2004 had hired Aleshire “to handle her personal and business taxes, and to provide her with legal advice.”
Vance alleged that in 2007 Aleshire stopped communicating with her. She called numerous time, sent letters, visited his residence, and left notes asking for him to contact her, according to the opinion.
In November 2008, Vance sent a letter asking Aleshire to return all of her documents so that she could get a CPA to handle her tax matters. The letter was returned “unclaimed,” she said.
After the IRS informed her in December 2008, that some of her taxes had not been paid, Vance hired a CPA who attempted to contact Aleshire to secure her tax documents. He was unsuccessful and in January 2009, Vance filed a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
The second count regarded the November 2009 purchase of real estate by Carol J. Harless. Harless had agreed to pay $6500 for property from a real estate company made up of Aleshire and his father.
Aleshire was to be paid an additional $40 in closing costs and he instructed Harless to make the check out to him for $6540.
“Mr. Aleshire’s bank record show that upon depositing this check, he immediately began using the money to pay personal expense and wrote checks made payable to himself,” the opinion states.
Harless sent numerous emails and letters to Aleshire and left voicemails asking why he had not delivered the deed. Aleshire, according to court records, did not reply to any of these messages.
At some point, Harless hired another attorney to help her get her property matter handled and there were numerous actions taken regarding the transaction, in and out of court.
On Jan 6, 2010, Harless filed a complaint against Aleshire with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel initially recommended a three-year suspension of Aleshire’s license, but the Hearing Panel Subcommittee rejected the recommendation and recommended a one-year sentence instead.
On review, the court wrote, “It is apparent from the record before us that Mr. Aleshire intentionally and repeatedly violated duties to his clients, the public, the legal system, and the legal profession.
“Mr. Aleshire failed to communicate with Ms. Vance, failed to file her tax returns, and failed to return her tax documents. This caused Ms. Vance considerable stress, necessitated that she hire another C.P.A., and resulted in the I.R.S. investigating her.
“Mr. Aleshire’s failure to deliver the deed to the property that Mrs. Harless purchased from his real estate company over al alleged legal fee dispute deprived her of the use of this property for almost two years. Mr. Harless had to retain another attorney and spend years in litigation to receive the property she purchased from Mr. Aleshire.”
After reciting the numerous violations of duty Aleshire committed in his dealings with the two women, the court then looked at aggravating and mitigating factors.
“We find it particularly troubling that Mr. Aleshire has refused to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct. There is overwhelming evidence that Mr. Aleshire failed to communicate with his clients, the ODC, and Attorney Anderson during the civil proceeding," the court wrote.
“Mr. Aleshire took no responsibility for these communication problems, instead blaming them on his mail carrier, problems with his telephone, voice mail, computer, and email.”
Commenting on the Hearing Panel Subcommittee’s determination that Aleshire was not “familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct that he violated” as a mitigating factor, the court found this particular factor cut the other way.
“We find that this factor weighs in favor of suspending Mr. Aleshire for three years. Mr. Aleshire had been a member of the state bar for over ten years at the time these ethical violations occurred," it said.
“His ignorance of the Rules of Professional Conduct does not excuse or mitigate his ethical violation.
“Therefore, we believe a three-year suspension will accomplish the goals of our disciplinary system by (1) punishing Mr. Aleshire, (2) serving as a deterrent to other members of the bar, and (3) restoring public confidence in the ethical standards of our profession.
“For these reasons, we believe the public, the legal profession, and the legal system will be better served with the imposition of a three-year license suspension.”