CLARKSBURG -- A circuit judge Friday ruled in favor of allowing Harrison County Prosecutor John Scott to continue serving, despite the fact that his law license was suspended at the time he took office.
Judge Thomas Bedell's ruling came one day after lawyers argued whether the suspension -- stemming from unpaid mandatory Bar Association dues -- rendered Scott permanently ineligible from serving.
Scott's license was suspended on Nov. 15. His licensed was reinstated Jan. 22 when he paid $295 in cash, after bouncing two checks.
In the meantime, he took the oath of office on two different occasions and presented cases to the grand jury.
"John A. Scott was eligible to assume, and is eligible to hold and to continue to hold the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney," Bedell ordered Friday.
Friday's ruling also ordered that the grand jury reconvene. The judge said he will order Scott to pay for the first session -- a cost of $2,173.
Also, the Scott matter should be referred to the State Bar disciplinary council for review, Bedell ordered.
Specifically, Bedell referred to Scott:
n asking a Bar Association official to falsify a dues payment receipt;
n attempting to pay his bar dues with a check that was drawn on his client/trust account.
n representing clients during his suspension;
n handling private clients' matters while serving as a paid public official;
n and telling the three circuit judges that he had paid his dues by sending them by certified mail on Dec. 29. Now he takes no position on this alleged payment, Bedell wrote.
Scott attorney David Romano said there may be some misunderstandings in the way certain situations evolved.
"There are some issues, and we'll get them straightened out," Romano said.
Meanwhile, Nancy Ulrich, chief public defender, said Friday's ruling to allow Scott to retain his office would be appealed to the state Supreme Court of Appeals. The court could hear arguments as early as Feb. 20.
"We've been put into a position that we need to protect the rights of our clients, and to make sure the government acted properly in charging them with a criminal offense," Ulrich said.
Ulrich said there are a lot of still unanswered questions which need to be addressed. A similar situation has never emerged in West Virginia.
Staff writer J.R. Brammer can be reached at 626-1442 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.