CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court seemed to indicate Monday a request to suspend the law license of Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants is premature.
Justices heard arguments on the recommendation from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that Plants lose his law license because of a conflict of interest and public perception. Plants has been in hot water since he was charged with two misdemeanors including violation of a Domestic Violence Protective Order and Domestic Battery.
Several state Supreme Court justices questioned Monday whether a conflict still exists in the office now that a special prosecutor is handling the bulk of domestic-related cases. Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom entered an order last month that created a special prosecutor’s office to prosecute those cases. Justice Margaret Workman said Monday that seems to have removed the conflict.
“The conflict has been removed for now has it not?” Workman asked.
Justice Menis Ketchum told the ODC it was seeking a lot. He said Plants “couldn’t even write a will” if the Supreme Court agreed with the ODC’s recommendation.
ODC attorney Joanne Villa Kirby argued even though there is a special prosecutor Plants’ actions create a conflict of interest in the entire office. She also said the public perception of the office has been damaged.
“This is an extremely important issue, the public perception of the impartiality and integrity of the prosecuting attorney’s office and our system of justice,” she said.
But Chief Justice Robin Davis told Kirby the ODC would have a stronger case for suspension if Plants is actually convicted of something.
“Let all of the allegations run their course and if there are convictions then, in terms of discipline, you would have, I think, a much stronger position,” Davis said.
Justice Workman said a suspension now would effectively remove Plants from his elected office.
“We have not ever had an occasion to do that because there’s a whole other statutory mechanism from removing a public officer from his office,” Workman said.
Plants’ attorney Robert Davis told the justices Plants agreed to step off the domestic violence cases and there’s no evidence he has done anything to influence one case.
The Supreme Court is expected to come out with a ruling soon.
Plants’ ex-wife obtained a domestic violence protective order earlier this year after she alleged Plants had abused their son. Plants allegedly violated the order when he spent a few minutes with his sons as they were waiting for their mother in a drug store parking lot. Plants was then charged with domestic battery in connection with the original investigation. He spanked his son with a belt leaving a bruise. He has said on multiple occasions he has committed no crimes.