CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Supreme Court has scheduled arguments in the case involving Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants for May 5.

In an order issued Tuesday, the High Court said it wanted to speed up the proceedings following the recommendations from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that Plants have his law license suspended after being arrested on separate misdemeanor domestic related charges.

The Court said “good cause” existed to speed up the case and set it for a hearing.

(Read Supreme Court order here)

Plants is facing one count of domestic battery for spanking his son with a belt in February. Last month he allegedly violated a protective order which barred him from seeing his children.

The High Court came down just hours after Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom held a hearing on a motion from the City of Charleston to remove Plants and his office from its domestic-related criminal cases involving women and children.

Paul Ellis, representing the city, told Judge Bloom there’s a fear any cases involving domestic violence handled by Plants’ office until his charges are ruled upon could lead to an appearance of impropriety. Ellis stressed cases could be appealed or dropped if they moved forward with questions still following the Plants.

Assistant Prosecutor Dan Holstein is handling the case for the Prosecutors office. He told the judge only cases involving children and corporal punishment should be off limits and the office has already recused itself from those. Special prosecutors have already been assigned to four of those cases.

Judge Bloom wanted to see a list of domestic violence cases involving children currently on the prosecutor’s agenda on his desk by 4 p.m. Tuesday. That is expected to add up to anywhere from 200 to 300 cases. Bloom also wanted both sides to present their proposed orders and findings of facts outlining their positions by noon Wednesday.

Bloom said once he has looked over those documents he would “rule promptly.”

Both sides remained, in the courtroom after the hearing trying to come to some sort of compromise. Ellis and Holstein agreed there are cases involving children the prosecutor’s office could continue to handle without any potential conflict. Cases that might be called into question could be handled by a special prosecutor assigned by the West Virginia Prosecutor’s Institute. Those talks are still ongoing.

In the Supreme Court ruling, Justice Brent Benjamin recused himself.

 

bubble graphic

15

bubble graphic

Comments

  • Mark

    Aaron: You are correct about the need for recall elections. Plants, Mike kelly, Brent Benjamin are poster children for recalls.

  • The Answer

    Potted there is one very important reason why you're not hearing anything about that situation.
    The current Mrs. Plants was still married to a city cop plus being swept off her feet by the "head law enforcement" officer in Kanawha Co. when she got the tickets.
    Enough said....

  • Aaron

    No one can justify this man still being in office. The fact that he refuses to to take a leave of absence, thereby costing taxpayers thousand of dollars (as Joe Public aptly pointed out some of) demonstrates his unworthiness to hold public office. If the Supreme Court doesn't remove him, hopefully voters will. It's just too bad West Virginia does not have recall elections as other states do.

    • stating the obvious

      I couldn't agree more with both you and Joe Public. I think everyone is looking forward to May 5th. Everyone but Mr. Plants anyway.

      • stating the obvious

        Just a side thought....if he was giving his lover raises....that's the same as paying for sex. That would make her a prostitute. She wasn't charged with that though she really should have, especially since the taxpayers had to pay for those raises.

  • Joe Public

    I saw a picture while reading this afternoon's on-line Daily Mail (http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140422/DM02/140429792) and realized that, in addition to the pre-tempest costs to the taxpayers occasioned by the prosecutor's promotion of his paramour and associated pay increases, Plants' staunch refusal to resign continues to cost the taxpayers untold thousands of dollars. The picture was taken during Judge Bloom's hearing today and it captures 4 attorneys: Mark Plants, Dan Holstein, Rachel Cipoletti and Paul Ellis. Each of these 4 attorneys are public-sector attorneys; I believe each is compensated directly or indirectly from public monies. If we assume an effective rate of $250 per hour (whether or not that's an objectively reasonable rate for legal services is another matter, but that certainly is a reasonable estimate of the effective cost of attorneys with the experience of those depicted in the photo) and further assume that the hearing lasted an hour, we just "spent" $1000.00 in legal fees for attendance at the hearing. But, of course, there is preparation for the hearing. Let's assume that each prepared an hour for the hearing (a very conservative estimate). That's another $1000.00 in legal fees. Mr. Ellis prepared a complaint. You guessed it: $250 for an hour (again, a conservative estimate). But these lawyers were not the only public employees involved in the hearing. Judge Bloom, at least one bailiff, Judge Bloom's clerk, and Judge Bloom's court reporter were all there, all necessary to the proceeding, and all paid a public-funded salary or wage. The lawyers must submit proposed findings of fact/conclusions of law by tomorrow (another hour for each and another $1000.00, minimum). Judge Bloom and his law clerk will consider the submissions and write an order (additional costs). I believe that the Prosecutor's office has hired (meaning "we" have hired) counsel from Pennsylvania to assist with the ethics/recusal issues. More money. Looking at it anecdotally, this afternoon's hearing (just the hearing) cost roughly as much as a teacher's salary for a week.

    The ODC (at "our" expense ) rightfully continues to investigate Plants' misconduct while employing his paramour and the West Virginia Supreme Court (at "our" expense) is wrestling with the ethics/conflict issues. And the Kanawha County Prosecutor's office has pushed some of this conflict-perceived cases to Putnam County. I would not be surprised if this resulted in unbudgeted overtime in our neighboring county.

    Big picture, Plants has not only engaged in misconduct during the period he supervised his lover, undermined the moral authority of his office by taking outrageous public positions about his personal criminal cases, and oughtright lied on Talkline about the timeline of his dalliances with his paramour, he has now persisted in a foolhardy and narcissistism-driven course of action that will cost the taxpayers thousands and thousands of dollars.

    There should be no doubt that Plants was, at best, disingenuous when he stated, "the office is bigger than the man."

    • Rich

      For this issue, he doesn't need to resign. All he needs to do is voluntarily step aside from domestic and abuse cases until his case is complete. Prosecutors around the state do it all the time when there is a conflict. I do not understand why he is jeopardizing delayed justice for defendants and victims by trying to hold on to these cases. Other than his ego. Having an assistant handle those cases doesn't cut it. The law is clear that if the elected prosecutor is disqualified or has a conflict, the entire office is disqualified. Further, having some experience in this system, I can guarantee there is at least one case out there, open or closed, where his office filed a petition or case against a parent for a spanking that left marks.
      Plants keeps saying he's innocent until proven guilty and to let the justice system run its course. I agree. But he shouldn't jeopardize other cases while letting his own proceed.

    • Chris

      What give you the right to be the judge and jury on Mr. Plants? Perhaps we should let the judicial system run it's course. No one else in Kanawha County gets arrested for whipping their children. The whole thing has gotten out of control.

      You are also failing to mention that Mr. Plants has saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars by making the office more efficient and reducing time that people are held in jail awaiting their trials thereby reducing the regional jail bill for the county.

      Yes he has made some poor decisions but it is not for me or you to decide his fate. It is up to the court system and he is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

      • Joe Public

        I'm not advocating for his conviction of a crime. That would be premature. And I agree that he does enjoy the presumption of innocence on the criminal charges. However, the standard employed on the ethics issues, favoritism, lies in public forums, and undermining the moral authority of his office by taking untenable public positions on his private criminal matters is whether or not there is an "appearance of impropriety." I believe that there is such an appearance. Moreover, I believe that the undisputed facts demonstrate an absence of moral fiber and incredibly poor judgment. Those facts include: he impregnated his assistant and, after the relationship began and while she was pregnant, gave her promotions and raises and took her to CLE conferences (including the Greenbrier); his office fixed her traffic citations without proof of the corrective measures; he denied paternity and allowed her husband (a detective) to believe that the child was his; he replaced his paramour with her brother; he violated an Order on a DVP; he argued that individuals may violate a DVP if they think they need to; he argued that everyone enjoys a constitutional right to discipline their child even if such discipline includes 10 lashes with a belt and bruising; his conduct had spawned an ethics investigation, a civil action, a domestic proceeding, and two criminal charges; and his office has now had to recuse itself from (for now) a number of criminal matters. If I'm incorrect with respect to any of these facts, please let me know and I will rethink my conclusion. These facts lead me to believe that the situation smacks of impropriety. And yields the conclusion that he is far from for to serve as the chief law enforcement agent of our county.

        • wvman75

          You're not advocating his conviction? Sure sounds like. Could have fooled me...

          • Joe Public

            Bruising*

          • Joe Public

            To clarify, I'm not advocating for his conviction of a crime (crimes) without a trial on the merits. I am advocating for his immediate removal from the position of Prosecutor. Based on the facts of which I am aware (and i have yet to be told that those facts are inaccurate), I do think that he will be convicted of or (or plead to) the violation of the DVP. He may convince a jury to nullify the abuse charge (despite the multiple lashes and brusinf). But of course that's just a guess.

      • Potted Plant

        Chris, I'm a registered voter in Kanawha Co. Mark Plants is an elected official I have every right to speak out on this outlandish 'mess'. He has no respect for the office he was elected to. I've tried to be mum regarding 'his n her' kids. They are innocent however; just curious when he decided to punish HIS son did he ask the smaller boy who gave him permission to ride the scooter?? We have a double standard. Sounds like its' ok to steal (he did that by impregnating employee who was married) Anxious to hear from state supreme court. I seriously hope his license is suspended. Hopefully until Nov.
        2016!!

    • Potted Plant

      Thanks for a well written explanation of these wasted monies placed on 'we the taxpayers'. I'm beyond sick & tired of NO mention of his current wife getting by w/o paying her 'fines' it seems the longer this goes on & more elected people become involved the worse the Kanawha Co. Prosecutor's Office is a haven for corruption.
      Sad day!