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Former McDowell judge loses law license

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Under the threat of disciplinary action on ethics charges, a former McDowell County circuit judge has surrendered his license to practice law.

W. Kendrick King, who served one term as judge in the 1990s, was charged with five separate complaints of misconduct by the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board in December.

The formal statement of charges issued by the board's investigative panel gave King the chance to file a response. Instead, King voluntarily asked the state Supreme Court to accept the annulment of his license.

The court accepted the annulment in a May 16 order.

King, 66, said Friday when reached by telephone that he didn't want to fight the charges because he had planned to retire anyway.

"I've been at it since 1972 and there comes a time to let the new generation take over," he said.

The charges against King mostly concerned his failure to pursue cases for clients who retained him in a variety of matters.

One woman's flood damage case, filed in 2001, was dismissed in 2009 because King failed to comply with the court's order to file and serve fact sheets outlining her claim, the charges state.

Another client's case was dismissed after neither he nor King showed up for a hearing. Although the man later filed the suit again himself, it was dismissed because the prior case had not been appealed and no motion to set aside the judgment had been filed, according to the charges.

Another man hired King to handle his automobile accident case. He alleged that even after the case was dismissed, King told him he could file the case again and misled him by saying the insurance company had made a settlement offer, the charges state.

Two other clients claim King "faked paperwork," telling them he filed a complaint in Kanawha Circuit Court, which he never did.

The final complaint alleged King failed to pursue a case for a man who claimed his signature had been forged on a deed. King failed to file a lawsuit, according to the charges, and during the time the man thought King was handling his case the property was sold twice and the house on it was torn down.

When contacted about each complaint, the disciplinary council wrote in the statement of charges that King ignored requests for response.

In 2001, King sued the West Virginia State Bar and several attorneys, alleging he was defamed in a newspaper advertisement, which he believed cost him re-election.

In that suit, King accused the State Bar of a malicious act by distributing a judicial evaluation poll, which King said was misleading.

The poll rated King as "poor or less than adequate in legal ability, intelligence and reasoning ability and courtesy/consideration of others ... adequate or less than good in diligence/dedication and in integrity moral courage/impartiality," according to previous reports in The Charleston Gazette.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman dismissed the lawsuit, ruling the poll was a matter of legitimate public interest.

Before becoming judge, King served as an assistant McDowell County prosecuting attorney. He later also worked as the county attorney, employed by the McDowell County Commission.

King, a Welch resident, said Friday he plans to return to county politics and do community service work.

"I've been telling everybody I was getting ready to retire, but it's not like I'm just going to sit at home and watch TV," he said.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1211.


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