WV Supreme Court to take up former candidate’s law license - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

WV Supreme Court to take up former candidate’s law license

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West Virginia Supreme Court justices will take up a lawyer disciplinary case next week that seeks to annul the law license of a New Martinsville attorney who ran for the state's highest court in last year's election.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel filed the action against H. John Rogers and seeks the high court to uphold the sanctions recommended by the hearing panel, which suggested the annulment of Rogers' law license, a comprehensive psychological examination before petitioning for reinstatement and that he be supervised for one year upon reinstatement.

Rogers is asking for the charges to be dropped.

The case will go before the high court in a June 4 oral argument hearing.

This case stems from a July 2009 incident when Rogers entered Jeffrey Shade's coffee shop, Barrista's Café. The Office of Disciplinary Counsel said in its brief to the state Supreme Court that Rogers started to "yell, cuss and gesture at Mr. Shade and other customers."

 "Mr. Shade testified that when respondent came into his coffee shop, he yelled, ‘I showed those mother**** down at the courthouse this morning…' and then respondent pointed at Mr. Shade and said ‘and you're next on my list.'"

Shade also testified, the brief continued, that Rogers came back into the café later that day and started yelling and gesturing at people, saying things like, "hear no evil, see no evil and pure evil."

After this alleged exchange, Shade said he told Rogers to leave and never come back.

The following day, Rogers filed an application for involuntary custody for mental health examination, saying Shade was suicidal, taking psychedelic drugs and that he physically assaulted him twice without provocation.

Shade was then detained and taken to the Hillcrest Behavioral Health Center at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, where the drug screen came up negative.

Rogers, who is acting as his own attorney, said in his brief that this case is basically a "he said/she said case" and alleged the hearing panel ignored testimony regarding his history working with addicts, alcoholics and their families.

In January 2010, the grand jury issued a two-count indictment charging Rogers with false swearing and malicious application to declare a person mentally ill or inebriate.

Rogers pleaded nolo contendere — which means "I will not contest it" — to both counts in Wetzel County Magistrate Court. In this type of plea, a person neither admits nor disputes guilt.

A January 2012 order mandated Rogers to be sentenced to 90 days in the custody of authorities of Northern Regional Jail and ordered him to pay a $150 fine. This jail sentence was suspended, the brief states.

For his second charge, Rogers also was sentenced to 90 days with 80 days suspended and he was again fined $150. He also was placed on 24 months of unsupervised probation.

The Wetzel County Circuit Court later granted Rogers' petition for a stay of execution pending appeal of a sentence.

Rogers appealed his conviction to the state's highest court; however, the court found there was not good cause to extend the period for perfecting the appeal. The court dismissed this appeal.

In its brief, the disciplinary counsel said a plea of nolo contendere is deemed a conviction under the rules of lawyer disciplinary procedure.

In his brief to the state Supreme Court, Rogers argued he had a witness who said one of the office's witnesses had changed his story. He also maintains the hearing panel refused to permit him to cross-examine one of the witnesses about Shade's drug use.

"The ODC case is further premised on the theory that the respondent sought his revenge by initiating this complaint rather than by, say, a civil suit or even knocking out a couple windows at 3 a.m. (Neither of which would probably have brought the wrath of the ODC down upon respondent's head)," his brief states.

Additionally, Rogers alleges the actual mental hygiene complaint not only contains the physical assault allegations but also includes Shade's narration of "a recent bad LSD trip."

"The respondent would certainly acknowledge that the weak spot in his position is the entry of the nolo pleas to both charges in the indictment," he said in his brief. "However, the respondent has certainly made it clear throughout both the civil and criminal proceedings that he did not enter these pleas because he was guilty in fact, but rather because he desired to bring this whole matter to a conclusion. Further, he also clearly indicated that he sought whatever earthly merit there was in sparing the local authorities a two or three day trial."

Rogers additionally said procedural equal protection extends to a nolo plea.

"After all, both the magistrate and the special prosecutor accepted the nolo plea here with the oral qualification enumerated by the respondent, i.e. of his factual innocence. The magistrate in sentencing made this explicit," he said.

He said neither the West Virginia State Police or the ODC ever contacted the one neutral witness until both civil and criminal charges had been preferred.

Rogers said the hearing panel did not take his conduct in context for either determining what happened that day or determining the sanctions.

He said the panel "simply did not view the respondent's testimony on an equal footing with that of the complainant."