CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the suspension of an attorney for violating the Rules of Professional Conduct.
Justice Tim Armstead authored the June 3 opinion.
The Hearing Panel Subcommittee (HPS) found that Jennifer M. Wolfe had committed violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct earlier this year. Wolfe formally stopped actively practicing in October after acknowledging drug abuse.
The HPS recommended Wolfe's law license be suspended for 18 months, while Wolfe requested her law license only be suspended for six months.
"Upon review, this Court confirms the findings and conclusion set forth in the report of the Hearing Panel Subcommittee, and we adopt the Subcommittee’s recommendations in their entirety," Armstead wrote in the court's opinion. "This Court holds, however, that the one year and six-month suspension of Wolfe’s license to practice law shall be retroactive to October 22, 2018, the date Wolfe formally disengaged from the active practice of law."
Formal charges were brought against Wolfe in October 2017 for violating the Rules of Professional Conduct. The charges were brought against her after police officers executed a search warrant on her residence in June 2016 while they were searching for Jack Greene, a fugitive.
When the police arrived at Wolfe's home, she stated she did not know where Greene was and had not seen him, but when the police entered her home, they found him, along with a handgun and drug paraphernalia. Wolfe's 2-year-old child was also present in the residence.
"As a result of the June 13, 2016, incident, Wolfe was charged in the Magistrate Court of Jackson County with the misdemeanor offenses of possession of a controlled substance and obstructing an officer and the felony offense of child neglect creating risk of injury," the opinion states. "In March 2017, the controlled substance and obstructing an officer charges were resolved through Wolfe’s entry into a pretrial diversion program. The child neglect creating risk of injury charge was bound over to the Circuit Court of Jackson County but dismissed nolle prosequi by order entered on June 22, 2017."
Also mentioned in the statement of charges was an alleged incident from July 2016 when Wolfe went to have a drug screening and a tube containing liquid was found taped to her body.
Wolfe self-reported to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) that she had been charged with possession of a controlled substance, obstructing an officer and child neglect creating risk of injury.
In 2018, the HPS filed its report and recommendations with the Supreme Court.
"Currently, Ms. Wolfe is subject to the five-year Monitoring Agreement with the Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program," Armstead wrote. "She has been compliant with the Agreement and has earned the advocacy of the JLAP."
The court ruled that nevertheless, the record demonstrates that Wolfe should remain removed from the practice of law for a period in time while she continues to make progress on her recovery.
"Clearly, a suspension is warranted in view of Wolfe’s violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct and to ensure that she is receiving the treatment and monitoring she needs before returning to the practice of law," Armstead wrote.
The court found the HPS recommendations to be reasonable and confirmed them.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Case number: 17-0906