My Story: Practicing Law in West Virginia

I came to West Virginia in 1987 fresh out of Pitt Law School where I immediately went to work for Steptoe & Johnson in Clarksburg practicing law. After a year they decided that I was not suited for their firm and they let me go. I then moved to Morgantown and worked for Hamstead Hamstead & Williams.

After three years I was suspended from the bankruptcy court over a case I had handled and was again fired. After that I opened my own solo practice. The Supreme Court ultimately suspended me in 1995 over that bankruptcy case so I sold insurance for years until I was reinstated in 2006.

I opened my own solo practice again in 2006 and worked until December of 2016. My law practice consisted mostly of representing low income and working people who could not afford to hire most other lawyers. I took on hard cases which other lawyers were afraid to handle. A lot of my clients could not afford to pay me and as a consequence my office simply ran out of money, and that is why I got in trouble with the Bar.

I got into this profession to help people.

In 2013 my nurse wife was fired from Monongalia General Hospital and I sued them for age discrimination. We settled the case the next year. Thereafter other former employees began contacting me and I ended up filing 13 more age-related employment cases against Mon General.

I was known as the lawyer who would take on difficult cases which other lawyers shied away from. I became involved in lawsuits against various entities in the area including the City of Morgantown, The City of Westover, The City of Bridgeport, PCE, Huntington Bank and the former Bruceton Bank.

There was always bad-blood between myself and the law firm of Steptoe & Johnson and other lawyers over the cases I had filed. I always tried to get along with everyone and felt that I was just doing my job.

The CEO of Mon General made it known that I was on some sort of "vendetta" against the hospital and he hired Steptoe to sue me and a former client over comments he had posted on Facebook after his case settled, in which he was praising my work and referring other former employees to come see me. The local newspaper, The Dominion Post, reported on all the lawsuits, to the great displeasure of Mon General's CEO Darryl Duncan.

From 2009 and 2013 I had a few complaints filed against me and had to visit the ODC to give a statement. The girls there have no experience practicing law and they are not very bright. They didn't like me because of my previous suspension and they felt that I was someone they had to keep their eye on, which was nonsense. They are very political and they play favorites.

In 2013 my business began to fail due to lack of paying clients. My secretary of three years quit suddenly. In January of 2014 I was served with an ethics complaint which was initiated by Supreme Court Justice Robin Davis over a check for $200 for a filing fee on an appeal which was returned NSF by my bank.

The check was good when written on Oct. 30 but the Court held the check until December, and by that time the account was overdrawn. They claim they wrote to me in December but I never saw the letter and would have paid the check then. In January of 2014 their clerk called me and told me the check had bounced and simultaneously told me that they had opened an ethics case against me about the check. I paid the check immediately.

Three months later my former secretary, who had quit without notice, filed her ethics complaint against me, claiming that I had bounced several checks and borrowed money from her mother, a client, and accused me of "unethical and criminal conduct". One of my former law clerks also filed his own complaint (as well as ghost-wrote her complaint) accusing me of filing a "fraudulent charging lien" in a case which I handled for him over a defective car he bought.

After he left my employ he wanted to handle the case on his own and we got into a fee dispute. It was clear that he had no intentions of paying me for all the work I did to help him so I filed a lien with the court listing all my work. He also claimed that I failed to keep him informed and tried to settle the case behind his back, which was a lie. The local Circuit Judge reviewed my lien and found nothing wrong with it but since we didn't have a written fee agreement, he ordered the guy to pay me a third out of his settlement. He ended up trading the car, lost interest in the case and settled for a small amount.

In June of 2014 one of my former clients for whom I had settled a slip and fall case filed an ethics complaint claiming that I failed to pay one of her medical bills from the settlement $985. I didn't pay the bill because we ran out of money. At her mediation we agreed to split the settlement of $35000 with me getting $15000 and she getting $20,000, which was more than the one-third which we had previously agreed to in writing. I needed the money and I did a good job for her and she agreed.

In June of 2015 I filed a pre-candidacy paper to run for Circuit Judge in Mon County. I was always very active on Facebook and was, and still am, always posting social and political commentary, for which I do not apologize.

In August of 2015 the trouble began and my enemies began attacking me in an effort to stop me from running for judge and in retaliation for my lawsuits against Mon General.

First the Judicial Investigation Committee called me and accused me of illegally soliciting campaign funds on my campaign Facebook page. I thought it was a harmless comment, and similar to other candidates who simply told the public how to send contributions. Terri Tarr at the JIC said that if I answered her letter and took down the posting that she would NOT file a complaint.

That was a lie! Terri Tarr is a political operative for Robin Davis and ran interference for her when Davis received a conflict of interest complaint a few years back about her sitting on a case involving one of her husband's business associates.

Next, in early September Terri wrote to me with a letter she received from the Mon County Bar Association, asking them to investigate me for "possible ethic violations".

The letter was signed by attorney Shannon Smith, of Kay Casto, who works with my then opponent Deb Scudiere, and Carlie Lacy, who was then a Steptoe lawyer. The letter was joined by other tiptoe lawyer Devon Gosnell, and Sean Murphy and all was was snippets of  cases I had worked on with them, and really didn't show anything.

Terri Tarr never did anything with it.

I was furious though that Steptoe lawyers and others were deliberately trying to derail my judicial campaign. Carlie Lacy and I had a case together in 2009 which we settled. At the end she said that I "hated" Steptoe & Johnson and asked me if I hated her too. Ridiculous. I told everyone I could that Deb Scudiere was trying to derail my campaign. We hadn't even gotten on the ballot!

I sent the story to The Dominion Post, which they never printed, instead choosing to print my withdrawal from the race.

Scudiere and I had been friendly for years and I had hired her as a mediator in several cases, until I failed to pay her and she threatened to take me before Judge Irene Keeley. We had a big blow up on the phone and I paid her. Deb called me on the phone out of the blue in November of 2015 and we talked about about an hour. he had her partner Steve Higgins sit in on the call. I recorded it.

She vehemently denied having anything to do with the letter. Over and over again she said "Ed, I didn't do it'. I told her she was lying and we finally ended the call. I knew it was her, or at least she was part of it.

In September of 2015 The Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) finally acted on the four complaints which they had been sitting on since 2014 and they filed a massive Statement of Charges against me including four complaints: (1) That I bounced the $200 check. Included in this was a complaint about my handling of client payments from a lawsuit I handled for several residents of Big Bear Camplands in Preston County who was upset about the way their annual assessments were being raised and handled.

Again, no other lawyer in the area would take their case. It was unusual to have so many "clients" so I asked them to pay me $50 per month for expenses, which some of them did. The ODC said that I failed to get a written fee agreement signed and failed to properly account for the payments. I worked hard on the case but it was dismissed by the Circuit Court. That was the appeal I had filed.

They also brought in my former clients to testify that I never told them I was going to file the appeal. They also accused me of trying to charge them for my time without a fee agreement. I tried to withdraw from the appeal but the SCA denied my motion and forced me to file the appeal, without pay, and which they later denied anyway. Yeah.

When I first read the Statement of Charges, some 30 pages, I knew they were out to get me.

They exaggerated the case and misstated the facts and included things which NO ONE was even complaining about. IN essence, they were throwing the book at me. Later I learned that that they also had subpoenaed my bank records and had a former FBI investigator talk to the witnesses. They were coming at me at FULL speed.

This was not an ordinary case. This was a vendetta.

Count 2 was my secretary's complaint, accusing me of filing a "frivolous lawsuit" against her to recover monies I loaned her during her employment which she acknowledged in a signed document. Her mother had given me $5000 in the summer of 2012 to have eye surgery. I always considered it a gift since we had no terms, yet when Vanessa quit, three months later she had her mother sue me, claiming that I failed to "repay" this "loan", so I counter-sued Vanessa for return of some $4500 in money which I lent her during her employment. Her mother won her case in Magistrate Court but I lost my case, so the accused me of filing a false case.

Count 3 was by my former client and I was accused of "converting client funds" by failing to pay the $985 medical bill.

During the course of the case in December of 2015 I paid the bill. They also accused me of breaching my fee agreement and taking more of a fee than we had agreed to and thus "converting" part of her share of the settlement. At my hearing the woman testified that she was ok with the share she received, but the ODC failed to mention that to the Supreme Court. here was another ethics case years ago in which a lawyer failed to pay a medical bill and he only got a reprimand.

Count 4 was by my former law clerk and they charged me with filing a fraudulent charging lien and seeking payment for fees "to which he was not entitled".

Then in October or November of 2015 Terri Tarr filed her own JIC complaint against me, accusing me of illegal solicitation of campaign funds, and for improper use of my personal Post Office box for the campaign, and also for my various Facebook postings, which were sent to her by one attorney Sean Murphy.

Murphy hates me and we had been fighting for the past year over a case in Morgantown involving the former Secure US business. Murphy is a sociopath. He beat up a girlfriend, former MPD officer Ashley Duda in December of 2012 and then in January of 2013 he physically assaulted attorney Scott Radman in the Marion County courthouse and inflicted serious injuries which required surgery.

The ODC sat on his case until 2016 and let him off with an admonishment. !!!

I think They were glad for Murphy's help against me and let him off easy, and/or he paid his way out of it. Murphy also stole millions of dollars from his client Betty Parmer. My client, Mitch Brozik, wrote to the ODC for a year trying to get them to look into this, but they ignored him and eventually dismissed his complaint.

The JIC wrote in their complaint that my Facebook comments were "racist" and "hateful" and forced me to withdraw from the judge's race, on pain of being suspended and fined. All of this of course came directly from Terri Tarr and was pure nonsense. So The Dominion Post wrote on their front page in early December 2015 "Slur End Kohout Bid" with a picture of me and big print.

My ethics hearing was in January of 2016. The ODC originally wanted to have a Steptoe partner as the chairman but I protested and they substituted Tim Haught, the Prosecuting Attorney for Wetzel County.

I thought the hearing went fairly well.

I hoped that Tim would see that the ODC was exaggerating their case. Tim even sparred with ODC Chief Rachel Cipoletti who kept questioning me about things which were not part of the case, just to make me look worse. At one point he said, "ok don't beat him over the head with it."  Cipoletti even asked her FBI witness if I had broken any laws with the handling of my bank account. He said "no" but I thought they already knew that and were just asking that to scare me.

I though to myself (my God! They even want to put me in jail!). I was upset but I let my attorney handle it. She did her best but it was obvious that this was a railroading and she was overwhelmed. Perry Mason couldn't have helped me. The fix was in ! The hearing seemed like more of a formality than a search for the truth. During the break Tim told me to calm down. It really seemed like he was trying to be understanding.

In June of 2016 the hearing panel filed their report and recommended my annulment!

I couldn't believe it!

But what jumped off the page was that the "report" was written by the ODC, and the panel members only signed it. They made no independent finding of their own. They let the ODC tell the tale in their own crooked words. The ODC even padded their bill for the costs of the proceeding.

Instead of having the hearing at the Law School, which would have offered free space, they had the hearing a the Waterfront Hotel and paid for two days in one of the ballrooms and plus they stayed overnight. The bill for my case came to over $10,000. This was maliciously padded just to hurt me more since I have to pay this back.

In February of 2016 I had to attend a JIC hearing in Morgantown. I was required to admit to all the charges (like in some Kangaroo court in North Korea) and agree to never again run for judge in West Virginia ! They charged me an additional $3300 for their work. Steptoe & Johnson senior partner and former SCA Clerk Ancil Ramey sat in on the hearing. I guess, just to gloat and report back to his firm that they had accomplished their evil task.

The ODC "report" recommended my annulment (same as disbarment only sounds worse) and that I pay the cost of the proceeding (the $10,000) AND that I reimburse my client $2000 which they claim I stole from her out of the settlement (and which she said otherwise). They ignored MOST of the testimony and evidence presented at my hearing, including that my client said she was satisfied with her settlement and signed a disbursement form.

They also ignored the testimony of Magistrate Hershel Mullins, who spoke highly of me, and ignored the fact that I proved that I did most of the work on my clerk's case and deserved payment and that the trial judge had no problem with my lien. They subpoenaed my Big Bear couple but they only put Mr. Galford on the stand who couldn't remember anything and said that I usually spoke with his wife, whom they let sit in the hallway.

By this time another lawyer I knew down the hall in my building, Rachel Fetty, agreed to represent me. She filed "objections" to the ODC recommendations in July of 2016. Rachel is a nice girl but was also a struggling solo attorney like myself with even less of a practice. She was not a trial lawyer  and her whole approach to representing me was to agree with the ODC and apologize for everything in hopes of leniency.

She even told me later that she and one of the ODC lawyers had agreed to a settlement in December of 2015, but that was rejected by Rachel Cipoletti. (Every time she gives her dog-and-pony-show about the news rules of ethics, she thanks Ancil Ramey for putting together the presentation for them.

In September of 2016 Steptoe finally moved to dismiss the lawsuit against my client and I over his Facebook comments, but only after he humiliated me by taking my videotaped deposition in June. He told Judge Clawges that they had decided that no settlement was possible since my client and I had no money to pay them, which was of course, ridiculous.

IN the suit, he claimed that my client and I had "conspired to disparage" Mon General and caused them (unspecified) "reputational damage" along with the legal fees, (some $300,000) for defending all the employment lawsuits (many of which are still pending). Steptoe's lawyer Bill Galoeta, whom I knew for years, also lied to Judge Clawges.

I tried to take the deposition of Mon General CEO Darryl Duncan but Bill told Judge Clawges that Duncan "had no personal knowledge of the lawsuit". I told him that the whole thing was Duncan's idea just to retaliate against me. Judge Clawges ordered them to produce in discovery all emails pertaining to the suit, and sure enough, Duncan initiated the suit. Clawges did nothing to sanction Galeota.

In October of 2016 Rachel and I went do the Supreme Court for my hearing.

The ODC would not allow me to sit at counsel table with my attorney (for some unexplained reason) so I sat in the gallery behind her. Brent Benjamin did most of the talking for the Court. He said that I should have "modified" my fee agreement with my personal injury client, and also read from letters I had sent to the Big Bear campers. At one point, the ODC attorney Andrea Hinerman, was so nervous that Loughry told her she was talking too fast, and told her to sit down.

She insisted on bringing up my past and previous suspension of 20 years ago. She focused on "conversion of client funds" and argued that annulment was mandated by the Court's previous rulings. I really thought we had a chance for some mercy.

The opinion came out at rare lightening speed two weeks later. The Court annulled me and agreed with almost everything the ODC said. They dismissed most of Vanessa's complaint about a false suit, based on "lack of evidence". Along the way there were a lot of snippy comments directed at me. It was like a virtual rubber stamp.  I was ordered to pay the costs and to repay the client $2000.

I closed my law office on December 16, 2016 and came home.

In conclusion, I feel that my case was grossly exaggerated and twisted. The ODC abused their powers at the behest of my enemies, Steptoe, Darryl Duncan, Murphy, and others. I'm viewed in Morgantown as a troublemaker who files a lot of lawsuits to bother the big people in town. That's not really true. I did my job.

I represented real people who were turned away by other lawyers. I did my best. But the whole affair put a very bad taste in my mouth for our legal system here in West Virginia. It is broken and corrupt. I probably could have survived if I had connections and influence. My case stands for the proposition that "they" can destroy anyone they want.

My case was never a disbarment case. Lawyers are usually disbarred for being convicted of serious felonies and going to prison (like Salem attorney Dan Lane), There's no comparison between my case, of a $200 bounced check and a $985 medical bill, and others who have stolen millions of dollars (JP Ball) and bank fraud (Angela Blythe) and stealing client checks (Pat Carrick) and other cases involving cheating or neglecting many clients and huge amounts of money and actual law breaking.

My case was made up to LOOK like a disbarment case, because that's what the ODC wanted to do.

And I'm also quite certain that there were back-channel ex parte discussions about me between the ODC/JIC and the members of the Supreme Court. WHY, for instance, did Robin David personally order a case be opened against me? Why was the decision issued so quickly? Why wasn't I given at least some mitigation? It's like they were mad at me.

One lawyer even told me that another lawyer said he thought all the charges were "piddling stuff". Why did the hearing panel abandon their role and let the ODC write their report? Why did they want a Steptoe lawyer to chair my panel? Why was I also forced out of a judge's race? Why was I barred from ever running for judge again?

None of this makes sense except that my enemies were out to get me. I know that sounds cliche' but it is true. I feel my case should have merited only a reprimand or a short suspension at most.

My opinion!

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So that's my story. I would have been a good judge. I would have seen that the people got a fair shake. I would have been different. I intend to apply for reinstatement in 2021, but only to clear my name.

BTW, my wife is a nurse and just got a job at WVHU. After about a month they apparently found out who she was married to and promptly fired her because of me. She did nothing wrong and they gave her no explanation. When I complained I got a nasty letter from their legal department telling me that I was banned form all WVUH properties in pain of arrest for trespassing!

This is how things are done in WV.

Nothing can be done about it and she's looking for another job.

Although I do not openly use my name, the people involved in this real life West Virginia drama will know who wrote this, and THAT is all that matters to me. Thank you for reading.