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Longtime lawyer, candidate has license revoked

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A New Martinsville attorney and former political candidate had his law license annulled Monday by the state Supreme Court, which called his conduct "reprehensible."

H. John Rogers, who most recently ran unsuccessfully for a position on the state Supreme Court last year, pleaded no contest in 2010 to the misdemeanor charges of false swearing and malicious application to declare a person mentally ill or inebriate in Wetzel County Magistrate Court.

The state Lawyer Disciplinary Board recommended that Rogers lose his law license, saying that he "violated duties owed to the public, to the legal system and to the legal profession," among other things.

In the unsigned decision, the court wrote, "We find that Mr. Rogers's conduct in this matter falls woefully short of the obligations a lawyer owes to the public, to the legal system and to the profession."

In 2009, Rogers filed a notarized application for involuntary custody for a mental health examination against Jeffrey Shade, alleging that Shade was suicidal, on psychedelic drugs and physically assaulted Rogers twice with no provocation, the decision states.

Shade owns Barristas Café and had kicked Rogers out of his coffee shop the day before Rogers filed the mental health application. 

The next day, Rogers filed an application to have Shade committed, documents state. Shade was detained by police and taken to the Hillcrest Behavioral Health Center at Ohio Valley Medical Center in Wheeling, a secure in-patient facility. He was released the same day after undergoing numerous tests, according to the board's brief.

Rogers, 73, argued he was trying to help Shade beat a drug problem, but Shade didn't test positive for drugs in the hospital.

Rogers also contends his no contest plea was "uncounseled" and he was unaware of the consequences. The court wrote that Rogers, who has been practicing law in West Virginia since 1966, had substantial experience as an attorney and should have understood the plea. They also wrote he hasn't demonstrated any remorse.

Rogers also attempted to revoke Shade's massage therapy license by filing a complaint against him with the Massage Therapy Licensing Board, the Supreme Court wrote.

If Rogers, a graduate of Harvard University's law school, attempts to petition to have his license reinstated, he must first undergo a comprehensive psychological examination to determine whether he's fit to practice law and if his license is reinstated he would be supervised for one year, the decision states, among other sanctions instituted by the court.

"Because Mr. Rogers exploited his knowledge of the law and our legal system to carry out a personal vendetta that resulted in a citizen of this state being involuntarily confined in a mental health care facility, we must send a strong message to the bar and to the public that this conduct will not be tolerated," the decision states.

Justice Brent Benjamin recused himself from the case, and retired Justice Thomas McHugh replaced him, joining Justices Menis Ketchum, Margaret Workman, Robin Davis and Allen Loughry.

Reach Kate White at 304-348-1723 or kate.white@wvgazette.com


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