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.
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.