By Jaynell Graham, Editor
The Pocahontas Times
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia filed a Memorandum Decision and Mandate Feb. 10 which suspended Donna Meadows-Price’s license to practice law in the state, effective Feb. 17, 2015.
In the original proceeding the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) asked the court to hold Price in contempt of court for her failure to comply with the court’s prior orders that publicly reprimanded her and imposed certain conditions on her continued practice of law.
In addition, ODC counsel Jessica H. Donahue Rhodes asked the court to suspend Price’s license as a result of the noncompliance.
According to the record, the matter originated in part from a formal statement of charges issued by the Lawyer Disciplinary Board in 2011, which alleged that misconduct had occurred during the time Price served as prosecuting attorney of Pocahontas County.
A Hearing Panel Subcommittee (HPS) issued a lengthy decision concluding that some, but not all, of the charges had been proven by clear and convincing evidence. The HPS concluded that Price violated Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct when she failed to submit orders in a timely manner in criminal, juvenile, and abuse and neglect proceedings in cases pending in Pocahontas County, and that the violations were intentional. The panel also found that Price had violated Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct with regard to a case in Greenbrier County for which she had been appointed as Special Prosecutor.
The HPS recommended that Price be publicly reprimanded; that she follow a plan of supervised practice for a period of three years with a supervising attorney, who meets the specifications set forth by the ODC; that she complete nine hours per year of continuing legal education – a total of 27 hours; and that she pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings.
Price objected to paying the full amount of the costs of the proceedings, citing the complexity and length of the proceedings and the fact that seven of the nine charges were ultimately not proven.
The Court accepted the recommendation of the HPS in its entirety, and Price will be required to pay the cost of the proceedings.
The ODC filed an itemized certificate, stating the amount to be $17,462.18.
With regard to a separate disciplinary matter in 2013 involving Price, the HPS issued a recommendation concluding that the ODC had not proven by clear and convincing evidence that any misconduct had occurred… but that the ODC had proven that Price had failed to respond to an inquiry.
The HPS made the same recommendations in this matter, with the exception that Price is only obligated to pay half of the cost of the proceedings, or $747.96.
The ODC, over a period of months, communicated with Price several times in writing about compliance with the recommendations, but received no response.
Price contacted the ODC by phone concerning a proposal that a senior family court judge be allowed to serve as her supervising attorney.
The ODC maintains that they attempted to return the call and left messages that such an arrangement would not be acceptable. According to the ODC, those calls and a subsequent letter went unreturned.
The decision states: “The rule to show cause in this case was issued three months ago and made clear that the order would be mooted ‘by the respondent’s full compliance with the Court’s Mar. 25, 2014 and May 27, 2014 orders.’ Despite the clarity of this direction, the severity of the possible penalties for contempt and the ample passage of time to permit Ms. Price to comply with the court’s orders, she has filed nothing with the Court to demonstrate her compliance or to prove that she is unable to comply. Her unsupported statements at oral argument simply do not suffice. We therefore conclude that Ms. Price is in contempt of this Court… and we hereby suspend Ms. Price’s license to practice law, effective Feb. 17, 2015. She may purge herself of the contempt by fully complying with the Court’s Mar. 25, 2014 and May 27, 2104 orders.”