Wayne attorney accused of not filing client's lawsuit

By Lawrence Smith | May 27, 2013

CHARLESTON - A Wayne County attorney faces ethics charges for allegedly failing to file a client’s lawsuit.

C. Walker Ferguson is named as respondent in a single-count statement of charges filed Dec. 14 by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel with the state Supreme Court’s Lawyer Disciplinary Board.

In the statement, ODC, the arm of the court that investigates attorney misconduct, accuses Ferguson, 59 and of Lavalette, of not only missing the deadline to file a client’s civil suit, but also failing to respond to the ensuing ethics complaint the client filed.

A statement of charges acts like an indictment for disciplinary purposes.

According to the statement, Ricky W. Browning on an unspecified date hired Ferguson to represent him in an unspecified civil action. Along with a $2,500 retainer, Browning on a later date paid Ferguson an additional $250, he says.

Repeated calls Browning made to Ferguson about the suit’s status, the statement says, went unreturned. After he discovered the suit was never filed, Browning lodged a complaint with ODC.

According to the statement, ODC between Feb. 21 and April 25, 2012, sent multiple letters to Ferguson asking him to respond to Browning’s complaint.

When he failed to answer any of them, ODC on Aug. 13 asked the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department to serve Ferguson with a subpoena duces tecum that instructed him to appear at ODC’s office on Sept. 20 to provide a sworn statement.

Though the Sheriff’s Department was unsuccessful in serving the subpoena, ODC still held the date open for Ferguson to appear and respond to the complaint. When he didn’t, ODC moved forward in pressing formal ethics charges.

The statement accuses Ferguson of six violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct, including those dealing with diligence, communication and failing to respond to an ethics inquiry. An evidentiary hearing on the statement is scheduled for May 31 at ODC’s office on the 12th floor of the City Center East building in Kanawha City.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, case number 13-0036

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