MORGANTOWN – A Monongalia County attorney whose license was annulled earlier this year has filed a $91 million lawsuit against the members of the state Supreme Court and others over the action.
John C. Scotchel Jr. filed his complaint Aug. 25 in Monongalia Circuit Court. The defendants listed are each state Supreme Court justice – Robin Jean Davis, Brent Benjamin, Menis Ketchum, Margaret Workman and Allen Loughry – as well as the Lawyer Disciplinary Board and Chairman Steven K. Nord plus Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti and Jessica Donahue Rhodes of the LDC’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, the West Virginia State Bar and President Anita Casey.
Allan N. Karlin of Allan N. Karlin and Associates in Morgantown, and Deborah Lynn Robinson also are listed as defendants. He says Robinson is the longtime girlfriend of his former client Lewis Snow Sr. Karlin represented Robinson and Snow in action against Scotchel.
In his 104-page complaint, Scotchel says the defendants “clearly demonstrated that West Virginia’s legal system is corrupt, unjust and no attorney is guarantees a fair disciplinary hearing from the LDB and these administrators, no client is really protected if a lawyer is subject to be disciplined for lawfully obeying the client, and West Virginia’s justice system is not honorable.”
In his complaint, Scotchel documents his 30-plus career as an attorney, a job he thought was “an honored profession.” But he says the defendants have sullied that reputation with their actions. He quotes Judge Joseph M. Sanders from a 1916 speech at a West Virginia Bar Association meeting.
He also documents his side of the six-year effort that resulted in his license annulment. That “ordeal” generated well over 3,000 documents and 30 hours of sworn testimony, Scotchel says.
He cites campaign promises made by the Justices, even including some made by Benjamin earlier this year in The West Virginia Record. He notes West Virginia’s annual rankings in the American Tort Reform Assocation’s Judicial Hellholes report. He notes last December’s ABC News report focusing on the controversy surrounding Davis.
“Ruling with a sword has now become the standard for the defendants Davis, Benjamin, Ketchum, Workman and Loughry that has destroyed the very liberty plaintiff relied upon when these defendants were elected,” Scotchel wrote. “Plaintiff asserts that these West Virginia defendants knowingly corrupted West Virginia’s legal system to cause irreparable damage to plaintiff.”
He claims the justices’ rulings against him were shams because they “rubber-stamped allegations of Rhodes and the LDB without one shred of evidence to support the allegations,” “ignored evidence of Rhodes and Karlin’s misconduct,” “manufactured evidence,” “misapplied the law,” “condoned false swearing, forged documents and fraud,” “twisted the … Rules of Disciplinary Procedure and … Professional Rules of Conduct,” “failed to carefully review the EVIDENCE favorable to plaintiff” and “failed to follow its own decisions equally and fairly to plaintiff.”
Scotchel said the Justices’ actions sent a message to the public that “We, as Justices and are friends, do not need to follow the law because we are above the law” and “we do not care if the public respects the law but we will rule by invoking the fear of the law.”
He says the disciplinary proceedings against him started with an ethics complaint allegedly filed by Snow when Robinson actually had filled it out and signed Snow’s name to it. He says Rhodes, Karlin and Robinson had an “unlawful mission” to annul his law license.
In his complaint, Scotchel accuses Robinson, Karlin, Rhodes, Cipoletti and the LDB for tortious interference with his law license and for conspiring to tortious interference. He also accuses them of fraud upon the court and fraud against him.
He also accuses Robinson, Karlin, Rhodes, Cipoletti and the Supreme Court Justices of intentionally violating the state Professional Rules of Condcut and the state Code of Judicial Conduct to cause him damage. He accuses the State Bar of breach of its common law duty of good fair and fair dealing with him by depriving him of benefits due under his contract with the State Bar.
Scotchel accuses the Justices of tortious violations of their fiduciary duties owed to him regarding his law license. He also says all of the defendants’ actions have intentionally, wrongfully and tortuously caused irreparable damage to himself. He also seek punitive damages from all of the defendants.
Scotchel seeks not less than $3 million for each count (for a total of $81 million) from the defendants jointly and severally as well as punitive damages of not less than $10 million. He also seeks court costs, attorney fees, interest and other relief. He is representing himself.
All of the defendants contacted declined comment on the case.
In February, the state Supreme Court annulled Scotchel’s license and ordered him to reimburse the ODC for the costs of the action in the amount of $11,667.77.
In 2002, Scotchel began working for Snow to sell Snow's sanitation business and was also his attorney in several charges involving the sanitation business beginning in 2003.
Scotchel sold Snow's business in 2008 and the money was deposited into Scotchel's OILTA checking account at Citizen's Bank of Morgantown. On June 12, 2008, Snow signed an agreement that stated he authorized an additional payment of $145,000 to Scotchel for attorney fees 2002 to present.
Between June 2008 and March 2009, Scotchel paid money to Snow's estranged wife, daughters, bank loans, finance company loans and advances to Snow, according to the statement of charges.
In March 2009, Snow met with Scotchel and requested the rest of his money from the sale of the business and a receipt for the fees in the matter. Scotchel informed him there was no money left and requested a few weeks to get his affairs in order because his assets were frozen.
Scotchel never provided a receipt to Snow and never provided additional money, according to the statement of charges. Snow filed a complaint against Scotchel on April 6, 2009, asking for a receipt regarding attorney fees and that he wanted to know where his money was being kept.
Scotchel informed the ODC that he kept time receipts, bills and invoices involving Snow, but when these were requested by the ODC, Scotchel never provided them.
The ODC said Scotchel charged an unreasonable fee to Snow in various matters, failed to communicate to Snow the basis or rate of fee in the various matters and failed to have the condition of $25,000 for the sale of Snow's business in writing.
Scotchel’s new complaint has been assigned to Circuit Judge Susan B. Tucker.
Monongalia Circuit Court case number: 15-C-524