CHARLESTON – A former McDowell County circuit judge is accused of scuttling the cases of nearly a half-dozen clients since returning to private practice more than a decade ago.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel on Jan. 14 filed a five-count statement of charges against William Kendrick King with the Lawyer Disciplinary Board. In the statement, ODC, the arm of the state Supreme Court that investigates attorney misconduct, alleges King, 65 and of Welch, failed to diligently represent five clients in their respective cases that resulted in either them being dismissed or never being filed.
A statement of charges acts like an indictment for disciplinary purposes.
In their respective complaints filed in 2009 and 2010, Hilda A. Mitros and William P. (Coosa Redfeather) Swain allege King performed little, if any, work in their lawsuits. According to the statement, King filed property damage lawsuits for Mitros in 2001 and Swain in 2005.
In her suit, Mitros alleged several companies - including Bluestone Coal Corporation, Georgia Pacific and Pocahontas Land Corporation - were responsible for her home being damaged by a flood. In his suit, Swain alleged his home was damaged by excessive coal dust from trucks hauling coal from the Black Wolf Coal Company.
Both suits were dismissed due to King failing to attend hearings after notices of inactivity were filed.
In his complaint filed on Sept. 8, 2011, John E. Gardner alleged King confessed that he “messed up” Gardner’s receiving of $18,000 from Nationwide to settle a personal injury suit. For reasons that are unclear, the suit was dismissed on Aug. 28, 2007.
Like Mitros and Swain, Gardner alleged King failed to attend hearings in this case which resulted in it being dismissed. According to the statement, Gardner severed his relationship with King in August 2010.
Eunice N. Henderson also filed a complaint against King in 2011 alleging that for the last seven years he led her to believe he filed three lawsuits on her behalf, including a wrongful death and black lung case involving her late husband and father. She filed the complaint after discovering King “had never filed the cases and that he had ‘faked’ the paperwork he had brought to her and said ‘had been filed in Charleston.’”
In his complaint filed last year, Jimmie R. Garlic alleged King failed to help him in filing a suit where his name was allegedly forged on a deed. According to the statement, King’s failure to act caused not only the property to be sold twice, but also the house to be torn down.
Garlic also alleged King failed to return his file.
The statement accuses King of 31 violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, including those dealing with diligence, communication, expediting litigation and misconduct. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for April 19 at the McDowell County Courthouse.
After 20 years in private practice, King successfully ran for circuit judge in 1992. That year, he defeated Rudolph J. “Rick” Murensky II in the May Democratic primary.
Murensky, who was then chairman of the House Finance Committee, hoped to succeed his father, Rudolph J. “Rudy” Murensky, as judge after the elder Murensky decided to retire after 20 years on the bench. However, he would get his wish eight years later when he upended King in his bid for re-election.
In 2008, Murensky, along with Booker T. Stephens, ran unopposed in both the May Democratic primary and November general election.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 13-0047