CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals suspended the law license of Lewisburg attorney for violating nearly 20 different professional conduct rules.
"Having reviewed this matter, we find sufficient evidence to initially demonstrate that the respondent has violated the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct and poses a substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public," Justice John Hutchison in the March 20 opinion. "Accordingly, we grant the ODC’s petition for interim suspension, effective immediately."
The court ordered the Hearing Panel Subcommittee to expedite the matter by filing its report no later than 60 days from the date of this opinion, and for the chief judge of Greenbrier Circuit Court to appoint a lawyer to serve as trustee for E. Lavoyd Morgan Jr.'s law practice.
Morgan was admitted to the bar in 1995 and has his law office in Lewisburg. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) filed charges against him in September, arguing that he had committed 134 instances of violating 19 different Rules of Professional Conduct, including mishandling cases, dishonesty and misappropriation of client funds.
Morgan filed objections to the petition, arguing that he filed a police report when he discovered two employees allegedly embezzling from the firm and that his medical problems and other circumstances out of his control generated the multiple ethics complaints against him.
As part of Morgan's practice, he represents indigent criminal defendants and he overbilled the West Virginia Public Defender Services multiple times, including billing for 28.8 billable hours in a single day, according to the court decision. He also had 21 complaints filed against him by former clients who alleged their cases were mishandled.
"There are multiple allegations of failing to act diligently, failing to adequately communicate with his clients, exhibiting a lack of candor and outright dishonesty, and failing to ensure that his employees acted in a manner consistent with the respondent’s ethical obligations," Hutchison wrote. "For purposes of this petition, the allegations that are particularly worrisome to this Court are the claims that the respondent mishandled and misappropriated client money."
Although Morgan denies violating the professional conduct rules, the court believes it is clear that he misappropriated client funds in at least some of the matters in the statement of charges, Hutchison wrote.
Hutchison wrote that because of the extraordinary nature of the matter, the court was granting the ODC's request to suspend a lawyer before the proceedings on formal charges have been completed and, because of that, it's necessary for the Lawyer Disciplinary Board to expedite its consideration of charges. He wrote that because there is a need to protect Morgan's current clients, a trustee will be appointed.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number: 19-0885