Saturday, November 21, 2020
The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has annulled the license of an attorney admitted by diploma privilege in 1975
The events relevant to the instant proceeding occurred in 2013. At some point in 2013, Mr. Hatfield visited the Cherry Bomb Gentlemen’s Club with a friend. While at the club, the friend introduced Mr. Hatfield to B.W. Mr. Hatfield claims that he then proceeded to pay B.W. for a lap dance. Subsequent to this interaction, on August 29, 2013, B.W. filed a complaint before the LDB alleging that during that same month she had asked Mr. Hatfield to represent her in a divorce action in Mercer County, West Virginia. B.W. further asserted that Mr. Hatfield “asked whether [B.W.] had $1,500 for his services and [she] told him [she] did not.” B.W. alleged that based on her inability to pay, Mr. Hatfield indicated he would only represent her if she engaged in explicit sexual acts with him in lieu of the $1,500. “He then persisted in trying to get sexual favors in exchange for representation.” B.W. asserted that she “told him that [she] was not interested in him and that [she] had recorded his requests for sexual favors[,]” and he responded to her that “he did not care because he was ‘untouchable.’” In addition to the written complaint, B.W. attached six separate audio recordings to her complaint, which she claimed contained telephone conversations with Mr. Hatfield wherein he requested sex from B.W. in exchange for his representation of her in her divorce proceeding.
The recorded conversations are quoted at length.
The court noted that
the disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Hatfield were delayed due to a traumatic brain injury he suffered in 2013.
The attorney denied the existence of an attorney-client relationship.
The court's legal conclusions
we agree with the HPS that the adjudicatory record as a whole demonstrates that Mr. Hatfield engaged in conduct of using inappropriate, sexually harassing behavior during telephone contact with B.W., a prospective client in a domestic matter, while soliciting professional employment in violation of Rule 7.3(b)(2); that he made sexual advances in an attempt to create a sexual relationship with a client or prospective client in exchange for his professional services in violation of Rules 8.4(a) and (d); and that he committed the criminal act of solicitation of another to commit an act of prostitution in violation of Rule 8.4(b).
After considering all of the relevant factors in this matter, we reject Mr. Hatfield’s suggestion that a reprimand is appropriate under the facts of this case. Rather, we conclude that the recommendation of the HPS for an annulment of Mr. Hatfield’s license to practice law is appropriate given the seriousness of his conduct. The combination of the serious misconduct in which Mr. Hatfield engaged and his total lack of remorse and appreciation for the wrongfulness of his repugnant conduct warrants his disbarment. Mr. Hatfield’s cavalier attitude regarding this serious misconduct is demonstrated throughout the record in this case. While Mr. Hatfield admitted that he sought to exchange legal representation for sex, he nevertheless claimed to be the victim in the incident.