Supreme Court annuls attorney's license for conduct violations

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 4, 2019

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals annulled the law license of an attorney it ruled committed multiple violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct.

A Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board determined Kourtney A. Ryan committed multiple violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and recommended a number of sanctions to be imposed against him, including the indefinite suspension of his law license.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel recommended the annulment of Ryan’s law license, according to the Feb. 27 order obtained by The West Virginia Record. Justice Tim Armstead authored the majority opinion.

"Upon review, this Court finds that clear and convincing evidence exists to support the HPS’s determination that Mr. Ryan committed multiple violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct," the order states. "Based upon the designated record and pertinent authorities, we agree with the ODC’s recommendation and order that Mr. Ryan’s law license be annulled."

Ryan's law license was suspended prior to the annulment because he had not paid dues to the West Virginia State Bar. His current address is in Palm Bay, Fla.

Ryan served as guardian ad litem for two children, P.C. and L.C. in two abuse and neglect matters in Upshur County. The children's maternal great uncle and aunt, T.C. and B.C. were granted permanent legal guardianship and their paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. C.,  began having visitation issues and contacted Ryan.

On June 16, 2014, Ryan met with the grandparents and agreed to represent them even though he was still serving the children as GAL. The grandparents were directed to pay a $2,500 retainer fee. He did not inform the grandparents that there would be a conflict of interest because he was the childrens' GAL.

During a Nov. 14, 2014, hearing Ryan failed to represent the grandparents' interests and provided false information during the hearing, the order states.

An amended petition for contempt was filed by the paternal grandmother on Dec. 23, 2014, and they obtained a new attorney, Daya Masada Wright. After discovering that Ryan had taken money from Mr. and Mrs. C. while he was serving as the GAL, Wright reported Ryan to the ODC.

On April 23, 2015, the paternal grandmother filed a complaint with the ODC against Ryan, alleging he “took money to represent [Mr. and Mrs. C.] without disclosure to the court or to the parties.”

The paternal grandmother asserted that the GAL should be neutral and advocate for the best interests of the children, which did not occur because Ryan accepted money from Mr. and Mrs. C. and therefore had a conflict of interest.

"Based on all of the foregoing, we find that the annulment of Mr. Ryan’s law license is an appropriate sanction," Armstead wrote in the order. "Annulling Mr. Ryan’s law license will accomplish the goals of our disciplinary system by punishing Mr. Ryan, restoring public confidence in the ethical standards of our profession, and serving as a deterrent to other members of the bar."

Ryan’s law license is annulled and he must comply with the mandates of Rule 3.28 of the West Virginia Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure regarding the duties of suspended or disbarred lawyers, he must produce a medical opinion from an independent medical examiner indicating that he is fit to engage in the practice of law prior to filing a petition for reinstatement pursuant to Rule 3.32 and he must pay the costs of the disciplinary proceeding.

West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 17-0007

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Upshur Circuit Court West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals

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