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Kanawha judge to hear city’s petition over Plants

By Kate White, Staff writer

Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom will hear a petition filed by the City of Charleston asking that the Kanawha County prosecutor’s office be barred from handling domestic violence cases brought by city police.

Charleston’s attorney filed the motion Monday night that asked a judge to stop Mark Plants’ office from prosecuting those cases. Plants has been charged with domestic battery and violating a domestic violence protective order.

An employee in the Kanawha circuit clerk’s office said Wednesday that all seven Kanawha circuit judges had recused themselves. But Bloom had not, and agreed Wednesday to hear the city’s petition.

A hearing is set for Tuesday. Plants must file a response to Charleston’s petition by Friday, according to Bloom’s order.

Last week, the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel asked the state Supreme Court to immediately suspend Plants or take his office off all cases involving allegations of violence by parents against children. Justices have not ruled on that filing.

According to the state rules governing lawyer disciplinary procedures, justices have to determine if there is good cause for the filing by the ODC. The next slated conference justices have is on May 24. That meeting is private.

If good cause is determined, Plants would be given at least 30 days before a hearing date is set.

Justices can’t suspend him until after a hearing, according to the rules.

All Kanawha magistrates and judges have recused themselves from handling criminal charges against Plants. Supreme Court justices previously appointed Mercer Circuit Judge Derek Swope to hear Plants case. But when he was charged with misdemeanors, justices appointed Mercer Magistrate Mike Flanigan to hear those. Plants has said he’s not guilty of any crime. Last week, his attorney, Jim Cagle, wrote in a court filing that Plants has the right to discipline his child and asked for the domestic-battery charge to be dismissed.

Plants “cannot represent his client, the State of West Virginia, in cases brought against parents or guardians because such representation may be materially limited by his own defense that such alleged criminal conduct is not a violation of the law,” the ODC filing states.

The Kanawha prosecutor “has materially limited the manner in which law enforcement, victims’ advocates and victims themselves respond to domestic violence situations, due to the conflict of interest [Plants] has created,” the filing states.

The city’s petition mirrors the ODC’s filing.

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


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