CHARLESTON – Less than six months after having his law license reinstated, Dante diTrapano has become a partner at a prominent Charleston law firm.
The Calwell Practice is now known as Calwell Luce diTrapano PLLC. The change took effect Jan. 1 as firm founder Stuart Calwell, diTrapano and Melissa Luce took leadership roles.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to partner with Stuart Calwell and Missy Luce in the practice of law,” diTrapano told The West Virginia Record.
In 2007, diTrapano had his law license annulled after a series of incidents involving drugs, guns and other charges. He was indicted in 2006 on two gun and drug charges. He petitioned to court to readmit him to the bar in 2012, but that request was denied. The court heard his latest petition, originally filed in 2016, in April of last year. The court reinstated diTrapano in a June 5 ruling.
Less than 24 hours after his license was reinstated, diTrapano was in a Kanawha Circuit Court courtroom representing a plaintiff in a case. A few days later, the jury ruled in favor of his client and handed down a $318,000 verdict.
And, diTrapano said things have been going well since then. He thanks Calwell for giving him a chance after his troubles.
“In April of 2009, on the recommendation of Missy, Stuart hired me as a legal assistant making $15 an hour,” diTrapano said. “Ten years later to move into a leadership role and work with the incredible lawyers and staff that we employ at Calwell Luce diTrapano is a blessing that is difficult to describe in words.
“I look forward to pursuing the same excellence in our work that Stuart established long ago.”
Calwell said the changes at the firm are a result of hard work.
"The firm's name change reflects the success our team of nine lawyers has accomplished over the years,” Calwell said. “All of our lawyers have made significant contributions toward achieving outstanding results for our clients, including the recent water crisis settlement.
“Expanding the leadership roles on our team solidifies our commitment to continue serving clients and our communities for decades to come.”
Luce began working at the firm in 2008 and was elevated to managing attorney in 2011. Other attorneys practicing with the firm are John Skaggs, David Carriger, Alex McLaughlin, Angela Cartmill Reese, Benjamin Adams and Christopher Hedges.
“The thing I like about being a lawyer most is helping other people,” diTrapano said.
In its June 5 ruling, the state Supreme Court reinstated diTrapano’s license effective immediately on the condition that he works for two years under the supervision of another attorney who will file monthly reports with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel. He also must continue his monitoring agreement with the state Judicial & Lawyer Assistance Program, pay his due to the state Bar and reimburse the Lawyer Disciplinary Board for the cost of the proceedings.
DiTrapano said the response he’s received from the state legal community after having his license reinstated has been “incredible.”
“I feel like the entire community has been supportive of my effort at reinstatement,” diTrapano said. “And they’ve rejoiced that the Supreme Court came to the decision they did. Not just about reinstating my license, but the complete way they approach addiction and recovery.”
DiTrapano also said he was particularly touched by then-Chief Justice Margaret Workman’s concurring opinion in his reinstatement.
“I thought that was so strong,” he said of Workman’s opinion, which praised diTrapano’s recovery efforts and 11 years of sobriety. “It shows our court now recognizes the need for recovery. Addiction is a disease.”
“Every family in West Virginia and indeed the nation has been touched in some way by the tragedy that accompanies the disease of addiction and the almost insurmountable challenges of recovery,” Workman wrote. “Dante diTrapano has demonstrated not only strength, courage and determination in his long path to recovery, but the willingness to give generously of his time, energy and life experience to others on that same journey. …
“I write separately to emphasize that our decision today sends the message that there is hope in the battle against the disease of addiction that so many families are facing; and to make clear that West Virginia’s legal profession, including our disciplinary system, supports the recovery and rehabilitation of impaired lawyers. The Amici Curiae Brief of the LAP aptly describes this matter as the opportunity for this court to ‘embrace the miracle of a colleague who is one of our own.’”
Workman also mentioned diTrapano’s father Rudy, a prominent Charleston attorney who died in 2017.
Rudy “made a statement about his son, which, in part, reads: ‘I believe that when Dante is reinstated he will flourish as a lawyer, and he will make the members of this court proud that they took the appropriate action on his license.’”
Workman also wrote that she believes diTrapano will treasure his law license like he said during oral arguments.
“And I hope and believe that he will also treasure, preserve, and continue his remarkable lifelong journey of recovery,” she wrote. “He has the potential to make major contributions not only to our legal system, but also to the recovery community by continuing to share his time, his energy, and his life experience to help others on the difficult road to recovery.”
DiTrapano said he agreed with Workman’s sentiment about his late father.
“Somehow, I felt he had a lot to do with my landing right back in the courtroom the day after I was reinstated,” he said. “That was his arena. He loved trials. For me to be reinstated and back in courtroom the next day, that’s probably never happened. I could see my dad looking down and smiling.”