Kanawha prosecutor argues he doesn’t need law license suspended

The state Supreme Court doesn’t need to suspend Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Plants’ law license after a circuit judge removed Plants’ office from handling cases alleging violence between parents and children, Plants’ attorney argued in a court filing Thursday.

The early precautions Plants’ office took after the prosecutor was charged with domestic battery — as well as the recent ruling by Kanawha Circuit Judge Duke Bloom, which keeps Plants’ office from handling a number of cases with potential conflicts — “have made such drastic measures unnecessary,” Robert Davis Jr. wrote for Plants in a brief filed in the clerk’s office of the Supreme Court.

Plants is charged with domestic battery of his 11-year-old son and violating a domestic violence protective order. Both charges are misdemeanors.

The state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which oversees lawyers in the state, filed a petition last month asking the Supreme Court to immediately suspend Plants and/or remove his office from handling cases of domestic violence involving parents and minor children until disciplinary proceedings against him are completed with the state Lawyer Disciplinary Board.

The ODC argues that Plants’ belief that he has the right to reasonably discipline his son creates a conflict of interest for his office.

The petition also states that Plants “poses a substantial threat of irreparable harm to the public” and that elected officials are held to a higher standard.

The Supreme Court found last month there was “good cause” for the ODC’s petition and expedited the case. A hearing is set for Monday.

After the ODC’s petition was filed, Plants’ office immediately stopped handling cases involving alleged violence between parents and children.

Last month, the city of Charleston filed a petition asking Plants’ office be taken off cases similar to the charges Planwts faces. Subsequently, Bloom barred the office from prosecuting cases involving child abuse and neglect, violent crimes against children by their parents and criminal violations of protective orders. Bloom appointed four special prosecutors to handle those cases.

Suspending Plants would be premature because the charges against him haven’t been proven, the brief states. It would also harm his defense against the criminal charges against him “as well as any anticipated ethics charge that might later be filed,” according to the filing.

“There is a strong possibility that there will not be a conviction,” Plants’ brief states.

Plants’ attorney asks that justices tell attorneys with the ODC to continue an investigation into Plants’ alleged misconduct without suspending him.

Plants suspension will “necessarily result in the loss of his position as Prosecuting Attorney, with the ironic result that he will be unable to support the child and family involved in the present charges,” the brief states.

In February, Plants’ ex-wife filed a domestic-violence petition alleging that Plants beat his 11-year-old son with a leather belt. An emergency protective order was issued, ordering Plants not to have contact with his children or his ex-wife.

Plants was later arrested and charged with violating the protective order after he said he found his children unattended at a local pharmacy. After West Virginia State Police investigated the abuse allegations, Plants was arrested again, on March 31, and charged with domestic battery. Plants has said he and his ex-wife had agreed to spanking as an acceptable form of discipline for their children.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.

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