Kanawha Prosecutor's Law License in Hands of Supreme Court

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A panel of Supreme Court justices will decide whether or not to suspend the law license of Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants.

At a hearing Monday afternoon, the Office of Disciplinary Counsel (ODC) recommended that Plants’ law license be temporarily suspended while there are misdemeanor charges against him.

Plants is accused of excessively disciplining his son with a belt and leaving bruises. He's been charged with domestic battery, and has also been charged with violating a domestic violence petition filed by his ex-wife.

However, the ODC stressed that its request has nothing to do with the allegations against Plants. They say he violated a rule of professional conduct by not immediately removing himself from cases similar to his own.

Mark Plants has already been disqualified from cases involving domestic violence or violations of domestic violence petitions. That order was made by a Kanawha County Circuit Judge.

During the hearing, several justices said the request to suspend a law license was “an extraordinary measure” for someone who has not yet been convicted.

The ODC argues that the problem is the public’s perception and that the only way to resolve it is for Plants to “no longer be the prosecuting attorney,” and that there is “not only a threat of harm, but there is an actual harm.”

Plants’ attorney, Robert Davis, started his argument by stating that his client is a “popular” prosecutor. A justice quickly asked, “Why does that matter?”

Davis says Plants has done nothing to violate the rules of professional conduct. He says there is no evidence that Plants has tried to have any input on cases before him.

Davis says it’s also inappropriate to assume that assistant prosecutors would be guessing Plants’ policies while he is not overseeing cases.

Davis argued that Plants should not lose his law license before being convicted. One justice brought up the fact that Plants fired an assistant prosecutor after he was arrested on a DUI charge and had not yet been convicted.

Justices also focused on the issue of paying the current special prosecutor $200 per hour, and wanted to know how long taxpayers can be expected to carry that burden.

Davis explained that he had nothing to do with that; therefore, he couldn’t answer that question.

The case has now been submitted. It’s unclear when a decision will be made.

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