CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Supreme Court has reinstated the law license of Dante diTrapano, effective immediately — although he must comply to several conditions.
DiTrapano’s legal battles and saga with addiction go back more than a decade.
He made an impassioned appearance on his own behalf before the Supreme Court in April.
Justice Beth Walker delivered the opinion for the court today. Chief Justice Margaret Workman concurred. Justice Allen Loughry dissented.
Workman’s concurring opinion was a more personal expression of support for DiTrapano, acknowledging his addiction.
“I write separately to emphasize that our decision today sends the message that there is hope in the battle against the disease of addiction that so many families are facing; and to make clear that West Virginia’s legal profession, including our disciplinary system, supports the recovery and rehabilitation of impaired lawyers,” Workman wrote.
DiTrapano must abide by several stipulations.
DiTrapano must be under supervision for a period of two years by an attorney who will file monthly reports with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
He also has to continue compliance with his five-year monitoring agreement with the West Virginia Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program.
He has to pay all dues to the West Virginia State Bar, and he must reimburse the Lawyer Disciplinary Board the costs of the reinstatement proceedings.
DiTrapano, a Charleston attorney, had his law license annulled in 2007, after a series of run-ins with the law.
He had been indicted in 2006 on 22 counts charging him with possessing various firearms while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
The state Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel filed for annulment of diTrapano’s law license after he entered a guilty plea to the crime “involving moral turpitude and professional unfitness.”
By May 10, 2007, the Supreme Court entered an order granting the annulment of diTrapano’s law license.
Since then, diTrapano has been going through substance abuse and family counseling while also working in support roles for Charleston law firms. He says he has been sober the whole time.
He petitioned in 2012 to be readmitted to the bar, but the Supreme Court then denied his request.
His quest for reinstatement began again in 2016. In doing so, diTrapano went through a process with a hearing panel subcommittee.
The hearing panel recommended that diTrapao’s law license be reinstated once he completes his West Virginia Lawyers Assistance Program monitoring agreement Nov. 30, 2021.
The Office of Lawyer Disciplinary Counsel opposed diTrapano’s reinstatement.
The office wrote in a brief that diTrapano “has failed to demonstrate requisite rehabilitation.” The office described his past behavior as “extremely serious, egregious and dishonest.”
The dissenting opinion issued by Loughry commended diTrapano for his progress.
“Nonetheless, I believe the petitioner’s prior professional misconduct – including serious misconduct against a client that is conspicuously absent from the majority’s discussion – dictates that he should not be readmitted to the practice of law,” Loughry wrote.
“In accordance with the recommendation of the Office of Disciplinary Counsel, I would deny this petition for reinstatement.”
Loughry wrote that by placing focus on diTrapano’s addiction recovery, the rest of the court didn’t place appropriate emphasis on other elements of diTrapano’s legal history.
“The majority’s focus in this matter should have been upon the petitioner’s forgery of a client’s name to loan documents, the theft of a portion of the loan proceeds, the unauthorized use of the client’s power of attorney to steal an additional $1.4 million, and how this misconduct would impact the public’s perception of the administration of justice,” Loughry wrote.
Workman, in her concurring opinion, wrote that she believes diTrapano understands the value and responsibility of his law license.
“In oral argument in support of his petition for reinstatement before this Court, Mr. diTrapano said that if his license to practice law is restored, he will treasure it ,I sincerely believe that he will,” Workman wrote.
“And I hope and believe that he will also treasure, preserve, and continue his remarkable lifelong journey of recovery. He has the potential to make major contributions not only to our legal system, but also to the recovery community by continuing to share his time, his energy, and his life experience to help others on the difficult road to recovery.