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WV Supreme Court Denies Petition To Suspend Kanawha Prosecutor's Law License

Reported: May. 28, 2014 3:25 PM EDT
Updated: May. 29, 2014 10:16 PM EDT

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Jeff Morris, Heath Harrison) -- The West Virginia Supreme Court has denied the Office of Disciplinary Counsel's petition to suspend Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants' law license.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel had sought the suspension of Plants' law license because it said he faced a conflict of interest after he was charged with domestic battery for spanking his son with a belt and with violating a domestic violence petition.

In its ruling issued Wednesday, the court said the appointment of Don Morris as a special prosecutor to handle domestic violence cases "provides sufficient protection from any substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public pending the resolution of disciplinary proceedings. Those circuit court orders should remain in full force and effect pending the outcome of the proceedings" against Plants.

Meanwhile, Kanawha County commissioners indicated at their meeting on Tuesday that they are exploring their options on how to push Plants out of office. Commissioner Dave Hardy said he would like the prosecutor to step down. The commissioners cited the expenses connected with hiring the special prosecutor. It has cost the county nearly $25,000 in this past month alone. Officials estimate the special prosecutor could cost $24,000 a month for at least 10 to 12 months.

A pretrial diversion agreement was reached last week with Plants that calls for the criminal charges against him to be held for a year provided he meets certain conditions. Questions have been raised, however, whether the pretrial diversion agreement is legal in Plants' case, considering the nature of the charges.

Commission President Kent Carper offered the following statement in response to the Supreme Court's ruling.

“I am very grateful to the Supreme Court for their timely and succinct judicial determination," Carper said. "The Kanawha County Commission will completely and fully abide by the opinion and direction of the Supreme Court, as we should.

The mature and well-reasoned opinion states, ‘due to the expense of maintaining a special prosecutor during the pendency of these actions, the proceedings against the respondent should continue toward resolution as expeditiously as possible.’ That is exactly what I intend to facilitate to the best of my skill and judgment. It is my intention to call a special meeting of the Kanawha County Commission on Tuesday, June 3, 2014, at 8:30 a.m. or at such time as the matter may be heard.”

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