Court Finds Attorney’s Conduct is Impermissible Regardless of Professed Altruistic Intent  

A West Virginia lawyer was reprimanded for depositing his personal funds into various client inmates’ prison accounts.

The Hearing Panel Subcommittee of the Lawyer Disciplinary Board of the West Virginia State Bar, alleged that the attorney’s monetary donations were made as payment to purchase referrals from inmates. The attorney denied the allegation and asserted that his contributions were donations that evidenced his sympathy for the inmates, and his desire to provide them with additional purchasing power at the commissary. The attorney admitted to instructing one of his employees to place money in the inmates’ accounts.

Although the donations were small, ranging from $25 to $50, the court determined that there was clear and convincing evidence that the attorney, by financially assisting litigation clients, violated Rules 1.8(e), 5.3(b), 5.3(c), 8.4(a) as well as 8.4(d).

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals determined that “[the lawyer’s] clearly impermissible conduct is not excused by his stated altruistic intent.”

As a result, the court issued a reprimand, required supervision of his law practice for one year, and required additional ethics training.

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