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Mineral Daily News-Tribune - Keyser, WV
  • Keyser attorney accused of misconduct

  • CHARLESTON — A
    Mineral County attorney
    has been cited for his alleged
    repeated failure to
    communicate with clients
    and the resulting ethics
    investigation.
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      Comment
  • From Staff /Wire Reports
    CHARLESTON — A
    Mineral County attorney
    has been cited for his alleged
    repeated failure to
    communicate with clients
    and the resulting ethics
    investigation.
    The Lawyer Disciplinary
    Board on Oct. 31 fi led
    a seven-count statement
    of charges against Chad B.
    Cissel, who practiced law
    in Keyser.
    In the statement, the
    Board - the prosecutorial
    arm of the state Supreme
    Court - said Cissel, 37 and
    a sole-practitioner lawyer
    in Keyser, kept four clients
    in the dark about their cases,
    according to a report
    Thursday in The West Virginia
    Legal Journal.
    Those cases included a
    Mineral County man accused
    of robbing a bank
    in Fort Ashby, and another
    county man accused of
    murder in the death of an
    infant girl.
    The statement accuses
    Cissel of violating Rules
    of Professional Conduct
    dealing with communication
    and failing to respond
    to a disciplinary inquiry.
    An evidentiary hearing on
    the statement has yet to be
    scheduled.
    Cissel was unavailable
    for comment Sunday. A
    phone call placed to his
    listed number was instead
    answered by a recording
    machine for another local
    attorney.
    According to its website,
    Cissel was admitted
    to the state Bar on Sept.
    26, 2000. Currently, he is
    administratively suspended
    from practicing law as
    a result of his failure to either
    pay his annual Bar
    dues or disclose if he has
    malpractice insurance.
    A statement of charges
    acts like an indictment for
    disciplinary purposes.
    The statement accuses
    Cissel of neglectingCharles E. Bruff ey's and
    Joseph S. Bennett's cases
    at the trial level in Mineral
    County, the Legal Journal
    report stated.
    According to the statement,
    Cissel was appointed
    in October 2010 to represent
    Bruff ey on robbery
    charges and Bennett on an
    unspecifi ed date on charges
    of child neglect resulting
    in death and fi rst-degree
    murder.
    In his complaint, Bruff ey
    alleged because Cissel did
    not respond to his letters
    or telephone calls, he was
    denied both a preliminary
    hearing and a bond reduction
    Page 2 of 3 - hearing. Following
    his indictment on Jan.
    11, 2011, Bruff ey asked for,
    and received, new counsel.
    According to the statement,
    he lodged his ethics
    complaint the day before.
    In response to it after
    being subpoenaed, Cissel
    said, unless previously
    scheduled, he does not accept
    collect calls from inmates,
    and, prior to being
    relieved as counsel, he
    "believed that he made attempts
    to get Mr. Bruff ey a
    bond reduction."
    Bruff ey was convicted
    in September 2011 for the
    Dec. 23, 2009, robbery of
    the Fort Ashby branch of
    M&T Bank. Currently, he
    is incarcerated at the Huttonsville
    Correctional Center
    in Randolph County.
    When also asked about
    his actions in Bennett's
    case, Cissel said, as a result
    of Bennett's letter to
    the circuit court, he was
    relieved as counsel the day
    trial was to begin. Also,
    he claimed he hadn't received
    a copy of Bennett's
    complaint.
    Despite pledging to fi le
    a response, he never did,
    it is alleged. However, according
    to the statement,
    he did sign for the certifi ed
    letter also dated Feb. 10 on
    Bennett's complaint, the
    report in the Legal Journal
    states.
    Bennett was indicted
    during the January 2011
    term of the Mineral County
    grand jury for the July
    2010 death of Alexis
    May Harbaugh, the infant
    daughter of his girlfriend.
    After agreeing to plead
    guilty to a charge of child
    neglect resulting in death
    after prosecutors off ered
    to drop the fi rst-degree
    murder charge for which
    he was indicted, Judge
    Lynn Nelson in March sentenced
    Bennett to a term
    of 3-15 years in prison.
    Currently, he is incarcerated
    at the St. Mary's Correctional
    Center in Pleasants
    County.
    One of the other cases
    against Cissel involves a
    West Virginia man he represented,
    who was charged
    with violating a protective
    order in Tucker County, according
    to the Legal Journal
    report.
    In that case the client accused
    Cissel of failing to
    keep him updated on the
    status of his appeal to the
    State Supreme Court. The
    client also raised constitutional
    Page 3 of 3 - and confl ict-of-interest
    issues.
    Despite denying he failed
    to keep the client advised
    of the status of his appeal,
    the statement maintains
    Cissel twice ignored requests
    in May by the Offi ce
    of Disciplinary Counsel,
    the arm of the Court that
    investigates attorney misconduct,
    for copies of any
    correspondence regarding
    the appeal.
    Another client alleged
    that Cissel, for 2 ½
    years, did not respond to
    his repeated correspondence
    regarding a postconviction
    habeas corpus
    petition.
    According to the statement,
    the client in 2005
    asked the WVU Innocence
    Project to examine
    his case. As a result,
    he maintained "third year
    law students have worked
    on his case and uncovered
    evidence to show he was
    innocent."
    Only after ODC subpoenaed
    him did Cissel
    respond to his client's
    complaint, it is alleged. According
    to the statement,
    Cissel said he was awaiting
    the outcome of a hearing
    on DNA evidence before
    fi ling the habeas petition.
    When reminded he was
    instructed by the circuit
    court on June 9, 2011, to
    write to his client within
    30 days to determine what
    action should be taken,
    Cissel said he would contact
    the client, respond to
    his complaint and update
    ODC on the progress of the
    habeas petition.
    According to the statement,
    he never did.
    Though he provided ODC
    a new address, a certifi ed
    letter dated Feb. 10 sent to
    him there was returned.

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