The West Virginia Supreme Court on Monday temporarily suspended the law license of a Jackson County lawyer after she was found guilty by the Lawyer Disciplinary Board’s Hearing Panel Subcommittee of possession of a controlled substance, attempting to defeat a drug and alcohol screening test and writing a worthless check.
Jennifer Wolfe’s license to practice in the state of West Virginia was suspended for a year and a half.
The Court also ordered that Wolfe has to participate in evaluation and treatment protocol set forth by the West Virginia Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program and has to pay the costs of the disciplinary hearing — nearly $2,400.
A decision on June 3, authored by Justice Tim Armstead, states that Wolfe’s suspension is retroactive to October 22, 2018, the day she formally stopped practicing law.
According to that same decision, the Hearing Panel Subcommittee found that Wolfe had “committed violations of the West Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct which resulted from her acknowledged drug abuse and dependency.”
On June 13, 2016, local police officers in Jackson County searched Wolfe’s home looking for Jack Greene, a fugitive, according to the opinion. Wolfe said she didn’t know where Greene was, but police found Greene in her bedroom, along with a handgun, drug paraphernalia and a white, crystal substance police believed to be crystal methamphetamine. According to the statement of charges, Wolfe’s 2-year-old child was in the house with her and Greene at the time.
Wolfe was charged in Jackson County Magistrate Court with two misdemeanors and the felony offense of child neglect creating risk of injury. The misdemeanor charges were resolved through Wolfe’s entry into a pretrial diversion program and the felony charge was dismissed in Jackson Circuit Court.
The following July, during a urine drug screen, a tube containing liquid was observed taped to Wolfe’s body in an attempt to pass the drug screen, according to the opinion; however, she “decided to be honest” and abandoned the plan and urinated as required, according to the statement of charges.
Both Wolfe’s urine and the liquid she brought with her to pass the test field-tested positive for amphetamines and methamphetamine.
The last charge alleged by the Statement of Charges occurred in May of 2016 when Wolfe wrote a worthless check for almost $150 to the grocery store Foodfair.
According to the opinion, Wolfe said that she wrote the check on an account that the bank had closed without her knowledge.
Wolfe reported the two misdemeanors and the felony charge to the office of Disciplinary Council; nevertheless, the court still ruled she should not be practicing at the time so she can work through the five-year Monitoring Agreement with the Judicial and Lawyer Assistance Program.
“She has been compliant with the Agreement and has earned the advocacy of the JLAP,” Armstead wrote. “Nevertheless, the record demonstrates that Wolfe should remain removed from the practice of law for a period in time while she continues to make progress on her recovery.”
While the report of the Hearing Panel Subcommittee did show that Wolfe violated her duties to the public, the legal system and the legal profession, it determined that the amount of actual injury caused by her misconduct was moderate.
“While the legal system and the legal profession were injured by [Wolfe’s] misconduct, there is no evidence that any of [Wolfe’s] clients suffered direct harm,” the report stated. “The people most hurt by [Wolfe’s] conduct are her and her family.”