CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Supreme Court called a temporary suspension of embattled Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants’ law license unwarranted in a written opinion handed down Wednesday.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel had sought the temporary suspension against Plants after he was charged with two misdemeanors; one for allegedly violating a domestic protective order and a second for domestic battery after disciplining his son with a belt.

(Read Supreme Court order here)

The Supreme Court’s written opinion said the “interim suspension pending the resolution of disciplinary proceedings is not warranted and further disqualification is unnecessary. The ODC’s request is accordingly denied.”

A special prosecutor was appointed by Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom to handle domestic violence-related cases investigated by Charleston police because of Plants’ conflict. The Supreme Court also weighed in on that decision.

“Due to the expense of maintaining a special prosecutor during the pendency of these actions, the proceedings against the Respondent (Plants) should continue toward resolution as expeditiously as possible.”

During oral arguments earlier this month the justices appeared lukewarm to the idea of suspending Plants’ license without him being convicted of a crime. Chief Justice Robin Davis said the ODC would have a stronger case for suspension if Plants was actually found guilty 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 Margaret 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.

Prosecutor Plants entered into a pre-trial diversion agreement last week which could result in the charges against him being dropped in a year if he meets certain requirements. He made a public apology as part of that agreement. But the legality of the deal has since been questioned by the special prosecutor in the case.

Meanwhile, Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy called for Plants’ resignation Tuesday because of the cost of the other special prosecutor handling the domestic violence cases. The first bill was for $24,000.

“I don’t say that lightly and I don’t say that out of disrespect but this has been an ongoing distraction to our office and to the county’s ability to get its work done and I don’t see it ending quickly and don’t see it ending very well,” Hardy told MetroNews.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper commended the Supreme Court on its decision Wednesday and announced a special meeting of the county commission next week. Carper has suggested the commission may begin the petition process to remove Plants from office because of the expense of the special prosecutor.

Plants has not commented on the latest developments.

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Comments

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    This was an "emergency " hearing before the Supreme Court to get a "temporary suspension" of Mr. Plants license based on the two misdemeanors charges against him . The ODC had to prove irreparable harm to the community . They didn't even come close . Partly because Judge Bloom already handled the issue with his sweeping ruling and partly because Plants didn't commit misconduct that would be considered extreme ( two misdemeanors is hardly the crime of the century ) . In fact , the truth is , the ODC should have dropped the request to have Plants license temporary suspended because of events that took place between the oral arguments and today's proceedings ( ie , Judge Blooms decision ) .

  • Ron - from Morgantown

    What is the" statutory mechanism " for removing a public officer from his office ? Who is the ultimate arbiter and who has the burden of proof ? What is the standard for that burden of proof ( beyond a reasonable doubt , or is it a preponderance of evidence or somewhere in between ? ) Is it an official impeachment proceeding - which requires a higher standard of proof , or is it called something else ?

  • Jason

    The legalities of the case aside, there seems to be something questionable occurring here...

    As I understand it, Plant's salary as prosecutor is roughly $96,000 per year. The cases assigned to the special prosecutor would have fallen under Plant's responsibility under normal circumstances.

    Yet suddenly, a portion of the prosecutor's normal caseload costs $24,000 monthly??? Are you telling me someone couldn't have been appointed at a salary that even remotely compared to the normal compensation of the elected position? Who exactly is this "special" prosecutor, and who rubber stamped this license to steal?

    The mess is bad enough, but this just adds insult to injury.

  • Not the brightest bulb

    Plants knew pretrial diversion agreement was illegal.


    http://www.wvgazette.com/article/20140528/GZ01/140529251/1419

  • No Surprise

    The crooks protect the crooks. Good old corrupt WV. Been this way for 100 years. Will never change.

  • Joe Public

    Prior to Judge Bloom's issuance of an Order barring Plants and his office from prosecuting Child Abuse Cases and violations of DVP Orders, the Office of Disiplinary Counsel ("ODC") filed an emergency Petition with the WV Sup. Ct. seeking a suspension of his license on the basis that his continued prosecution of such cases created a "sbustantial threat of irreparable harm to the public pending the resultion of [the ODC's] disciplinary proceedings. Relying on a rule of disciplinary conduct that provides for an immediate -- prehearing -- summary suspension of a lawyer's license (on that "should be utilized in the most extreme cases of lawyer misconduct"), the ODC, in effect, sought an immediate, preliminary suspension before and up through the ultimate trial of the disciplinary charges that the ODC filed against Plants. After the ODC filed its "immediate suspension" petition, Judge Bloom issued his now well-known Order barring Plants and his office from prosecuting such cases. Judge Bloom's ruling was predicated on the outrageous public positions that our prosecutor posited on his own criminal cases: 1) the so called "Plants Defense" which provides child abusers with the denfenses of an alleged (but unfounded) "constitutional right" to discipline children however you like, including battering and bruising them, as long as it was an "accident"; and 2) the new (equally unfounded) defense to a violation of a DVP Order that, "it is OK to violate a DVP Order as long as you believe that you should violate it. Judge Bloom's Order also necessitated the County's hiring of a Special Prosecutor to fill the void.

    As expected, the Supreme Court issued an Order today denying the ODC's petition for an immediate suspension, holding, that Judge Bloom's Order, "disqualifying [Plants] and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney of kanawha County from certain tpes of cases adn the April 24, 2014 order appointing Donald P. Morris as Chief Special Prosecutor provide sufficient protection from any substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public pending the resoltion of disciplinary proceedings." The Supreme Court further opined, "[t]hose circuit court orders should remain in full force and effect pending the outcome of the [ODC ethical] proceedings against [Plants]."

    So what happens now? The criminal plea bargain that Plants agreed to last week (that included a dismissal of the criminal charges 1 year from now as part of a 1-year pretrial diversion plan provided Plants commits no other crimes, submits to a 1-year period of supervised visitation, and implements no more corporal punishment) was insufficient as a matter of law. It failed to include mandatory counseling provisions and other matters required by the Code. When and if it is ultimately amended, the charges will be hanging over his head for a period of year which all but guarantees that his office will continue to be barred from prosecuting these types of cases.

    The Kanawha County commission -- who just paid their first bill equal to a new police car or salary of an entry-level city worker -- is not going to sit back and continue to pay $25,000.00 per month or more for the next 12 or more months. It will file a Petition instituting impeachment proceedings in the near future. The US District Attorney and the Special Criminal Procecutor (Sid Bell) will continue investigating Plant's unethical relationship with his secretary and resultant raises, favoritism, trips, etc. Plants will be charged for this conduct. The ODC will continue to investigate this as well on the licensure path. The ODC's ethics proceedings will march on toward a hearing and, I expect, an appeal.

    As a result, the taxpayers of our County will pay in dollars, victims of abuse will face ever-evolving hurdles in the form of criminal defendants using the "Plants Defenses" and the integrity of the Kanawha County Prosecutor's Office will be further tarnished (perhaps irreparably). Enough is enough.

    • No excessive celebration

      How can you be the victim's advocate while attacking the victim in your personal case?

      How can you prosecute DVP violations while arguing in your personal case a 'reasonable cause' exception applies to the clear and unambiguous language in the DVP order issued against you?

    • No excessive celebration

      The dude is circling the toilet bowl. The county commission hearing Tuesday will be interesting and insightful.

      By the way Joe, Plants argued before Bloom he only needed to be disqualified from 5 corporal punishment cases. Bloom disqualified him from nearly 400 cases which, ironically, saved his bacon with the Supremes (for now). This is further evidence the dude doesn't get it.

      Today may be the last victory Plants has for a long, long while.

    • William Glasser

      ... and all God's children say ... amen.

      • Joe Public

        Yes, it's now just a matter of time. And I believe when the US Attorney, Sid Bell and the ODC complete their investigation into the nepotism/raises/promotion issues (and hammer Plants on the Talkline lie he told regarding his decision that his paramour would resign "before" the relationship began), it is going to get even uglier and more expensive. Funny thing is, when the the facts initially surfaced, I thought he could/should/would fall on his sword and let it come the back, thereby giving him a path through this briar patch. But he basically lit his hair on fire and jumped headlong into the thicket.