CHARLESTON – Records show prior to the current ethics charges filed against him, William Kendrick King was disciplined in 2009 for providing legal advice to a former litigant he presided over when he was a circuit judge.
Record also show that he was disciplined again earlier this year for failing to respond to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s inquiry regarding a criminal case against him that ultimately led to a not guilty verdict.
On March 30, 2009 Cecil A. Phillips, Jr., of Pipestem, filed a complaint against King, accusing him of taking his ex-wife Nancy as a client after presiding in their divorce 16 years earlier. A year earlier, King wrote a letter to the United Mine Workers of America’s Health and Retirement Funds about Nancy receiving a portion of Cecil’s pension.
In his reply to Phillips’ complaint, King said Nancy never formally hired him to represent her. Instead, after looking at the final divorce decree, which was silent on the matter, he agreed to write the letter, he said.
After receiving a response from the UMWA that she was entitled to a portion of Cecil’s pension, King said he informed Nancy he could no longer help her and she needed to hire an attorney to file a motion in family court.
Because he gave the appearance he was acting as Nancy’s attorney despite acknowledging he presided in her divorce from Cecil, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board found violated Rule 1.2(a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct in creating a conflict of interest. As a result, the board on Dec. 16, 2009, opted to admonish him.
Nearly 18 months later, King was charged with battery in McDowell Magistrate Court after a client, Belinda Ray, accused him of making physical contact with her in a way she felt “as being insulting in nature.”
Though the charge was initially dismissed on Oct. 24, 2011, due to her failure to show for the trial, the McDowell County Prosecutor’s Office a month later successfully filed a motion to have the case reinstated on the grounds Ray had “not [been] served with process, did not know of the trial date and still want[ed] her day in court.”
On an unspecified date, King was convicted of the charge. However, he appealed to circuit court and was found not guilty by Senior Status Cabell Circuit Judge John L. Cummings during a March 13, 2012, bench trial.
Cummings was appointed to the case after both McDowell Circuit judges Rudolph J. “Rick” Murensky II and Booker T. Stephens recused themselves.
The Board closed the complaint by again admonishing King. In the closing letter dated Feb. 8, Charles J. Kaiser, Jr., chairman of the Board’s investigative panel, said despite the court’s finding, “under no circumstances should an attorney ever make advances of any kind towards a client.”
Also, Kaiser warned King that failure to respond to requests for information from ODC will potentially result in more severe discipline.