CHARLESTON – The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled to suspend a Morgantown attorney’s law license and has also ordered other sanctions for him.
The Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension of Thorn H. Thorn’s law license and adopted other sanctions recommended by the Hearing Panel Subcommittee, according to the March 3 opinion.
Justice Robin Jean Davis authored the majority opinion.
The HPS initially recommended a 90-day suspension and Thorn accepted the recommended suspension and sanctions. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel disagreed with the length of the suspension and recommended a one-year suspension.
“Based upon a review of the record submitted, the briefs and argument of the ODC and Mr. Thorn, as well as the applicable legal precedent, this Court disagrees with the length of the suspension recommended by the HPS,” the opinion states. “Instead, upon a review of both aggravating and mitigating factors, as well as the great harm caused to his clients, this Court finds that a ninety-day suspension from the practice of law is too lenient.”
Thorn maintains a solo practice in Morgantown and has been a member of the State Bar since he passed the Bar Exam in 1997. Formal charges were filed against him on July 14, 2014, after a total of 11 complains had been filed against him, including one from another attorney.
Thorn’s hearing was held before the HPS on April 8, 2015, and the HPS issued its decision on Sept. 15. The HPS filed an amended recommended decision on Oct. 13.
The HPS found that Thorn had committed numerous violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and that he had engaged in conduct that violated the duties owed to his clients, the public, the legal system and the profession.
The HPS also found that Thorn acted negligently, but not intentionally or knowingly and that the evidence strongly suggested that Thorn’s conduct resulted from the effects of his mental disability and some negligence rather than willful neglect or some intentional or knowing plan.
The HPS recommended that Thorn have his law license suspended for 90 days; he be required, prior to reinstatement, to issue refunds to three of the complainants; that he be required to issue itemized statements to four of the complainants; that he be supervised for one year by an attorney agreed upon by the OCD and Thorn; that he submit to counseling with a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist; and that he be required to pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.
The Supreme Court decided a 90-day suspension was too lenient.
“An adequate suspension and other sanctions must serve the interests of the clients, the public, and the administration of justice and appropriately punish Mr. Thorn for his conduct in violation of the Rules,” the opinion states. “We believe that lawyers who suffer from depression, or any other mental disability, that impairs the ability to practice law must be encouraged to seek assistance during the time of disability. Otherwise, the interests of clients, the public, and the administration of justice are not protected.”
The Supreme Court imposed a one-year suspension, along with all the other sanctions recommended by the HPS.
Renee Frymyer represented the Lawyer Disciplinary Board.
Thorn represented himself.
W.Va. Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 14-0670