State v. Price, No. 14-0899

CourtSupreme Court of West Virginia
Writing for the CourtChief Justice Margaret L. Workman Justice Robin Jean Davis Justice Brent D. Benjamin Justice Menis E. Ketchum Justice Allen H. Loughry II
Decision Date10 February 2015
PartiesSTATE OF WEST VIRGINIA ex rel. OFFICE OF DISCIPLINARY COUNSEL, Petitioner v. DONNA PRICE, a member of the West Virginia State Bar, Respondent
Docket NumberNo. 14-0899

DONNA PRICE, a member of the West Virginia State Bar, Respondent

No. 14-0899


February 10, 2015


In this original proceeding the Office of Disciplinary Counsel ("ODC") requests this Court to hold the respondent Donna Price ("Ms. Price") in contempt of this Court for her failure to comply with this Court's prior orders that publicly reprimanded Ms. Price and imposed certain conditions on her continued practice of law. The ODC, appearing by counsel Jessica H. Donahue Rhodes, further requests that this Court immediately suspend Ms. Price's license to practice law as a result of such noncompliance. Ms. Price appears pro se in this matter.

The Court has carefully considered the petition, the appendix, the supplemental appendix, and the oral arguments of the parties. This case does not involve a novel issue or a substantial question of law, and therefore a memorandum decision is appropriate under Rule 21 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. See Syl. Pts. 4 and 5, State v. McKinley, 234 W.Va. 143, 764 S.E.2d 303 (2014). We agree with the recommendations of the ODC, and we find ample cause to hold Ms. Price in contempt for her failure to comply with our prior orders and suspend her license to practice law in West Virginia until such time as Ms. Price has demonstrated full compliance.

This matter originates in part from a formal statement of charges issued by the Lawyer Disciplinary Board in 2011 alleging that misconduct occurred during the time Ms. Price served as the elected Prosecuting Attorney of Pocahontas County. After a hearing, 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 Ms. Price violated Rule 1.3 of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to timely submit orders in criminal, juvenile, and abuse and neglect proceedings in cases pending in Pocahontas County, and that those violations were

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intentional. The HPS further concluded that as a result of inexperience and negligence, Ms. Price violated Rule 1.1 of the Rules of Professional Conduct by failing to memorialize a defendant's waiver of the statute of limitations in a case involving misdemeanor sexual abuse to which she had been appointed as Special Prosecutor in Greenbrier County.1 After considering the aggravating and mitigating factors, the HPS recommended that: (1) Ms. Price be publicly reprimanded; (2) Ms. Price must follow a plan of supervised practice for a period of three years with a supervising attorney, consistent with specifications set forth by the ODC; (3) During the period of supervised practice, Ms. Price must complete nine hours per year (a total of twenty-seven additional hours) of continuing legal education in the areas of law office management, civil or criminal procedure, and the substantive areas in which she intends to practice law; and (4) Ms. Price must pay the costs of the disciplinary proceedings in accordance with Rule 3.15 of the Rules of Lawyer Disciplinary Procedure.

At the time the HPS filed its recommendation, Ms. Price was represented by counsel, who filed a response to the HPS recommendation stating that Ms. Price did not object to the first three points of the proposed sanction, but that she did object to paying the full amount of the costs of the proceedings, citing the complexity and length of the proceedings, the fact that seven of the nine charges were not ultimately proven, that Ms. Price had already stipulated to the charge involving the untimely preparation of orders, and that Ms. Price has very limited means to pay the costs. By order entered March 25, 2014, this Court accepted the recommendation of the HPS in its entirety.

The Court is of the opinion to concur with the recommendation and does hereby approve the recommendation of the Hearing Panel Subcommittee in its entirety. It is therefore ordered that: (1) respondent be, and hereby is, reprimanded for her conduct in this matter; (2) respondent shall follow a written and executed plan of supervised practice for a period of three years with a supervising attorney of respondent's choice who is approved by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, and is available to respond to the Office of Disciplinary Counsel; (3) during the three year supervision period, respondent shall complete 9 additional hours of continuing legal education per year, for a total of 27 additional hours, to include the following

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