by Jim Fisher
CLARKSBURG -- After nearly 25 tumultuous months as Harrison County's prosecuting attorney, John A. Scott resigned Friday afternoon, effective noon Jan. 31.
The move effectively cancels a hearing scheduled for that day; a three-judge panel was to hear arguments on a petition filed last month calling for Scott's removal from office.
"It's up to the three-judge panel but I anticipate they will cancel the hearing because the matter that was before the three-judge panel is moot," said Clarksburg attorney Jim Pool, one of two lawyers who filed the petition.
Scott's one-line resignation letter was accepted by the Harrison County Commission during an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. Friday.
Commissioners will now begin the search for a new prosecutor. Commissioners said Friday they will accept letters of interest early next week and make a decision during a 4 p.m. special meeting Thursday.
Scott's tenure has been troubled from the start, when he presented cases to a grand jury with a suspended law license.
Judges, police and other attorneys have since complained about misleading statements, lack of preparation and failure to show up for court appearances.
Scott has admitted to violating Rules of Professional Conduct relating to unauthorized practice of law, professional misconduct, candor toward tribunal and fairness to opposing party and counsel.
The Harrison County Bar Association in December passed a resolution calling for Scott's resignation, saying his conduct has undermined public trust in the prosecutor's office.
Following an extensive investigation last year, a three-member State Bar Hearing Panel subcommittee to the Supreme Court recommended that Scott's license be annulled. That recommendation was much harsher than the four-year suspension proposed by the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
Greg Schillace, Scott's attorney in the matter, has argued there are mitigating factors for Scott's behavior, including a diagnosis of a bipolar disorder. Schillace also argues that other lawyers have received lighter punishment for similar infractions.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case Feb. 26. In October, Scott offered to temporarily step down until that case is heard, but the Supreme Court rejected the notion.
In November, The Exponent Telegram learned that a federal grand jury also was investigating Scott. Scott was subpoenaed to hand over documents in the case of a Harrison County man indicted for malicious assault more than a year after the case had been resolved in magistrate court.
Earlier this week, a circuit judge authorized the release of county grand jury testimony in the case to the federal grand jury. The hearing came at the request of Bill Kolibash, Scott's attorney in the matter, who said Scott could not release the documents without the court's permission.
Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org