In September 2011, a lawyer working for the Division of Corrections filed a complaint against Nessel, alleging he filed a frivolous lawsuit against Wexford Health Sources, a contractor that provides in-house medical services for Division of Corrections facilities.
Kelly Morgan, of the Bailey and Wyant law firm in Charleston, said Nessel requested medical records of numerous Lakin inmates who said they had been sexually abused by a Wexford doctor while receiving medical treatment.
One of those alleged inmate victims, Morgan said, was released from Lakin before the doctor began working there. Nessel filed his suit anyway, including the inmate as a plaintiff.
In another case, Morgan told the Office of Disciplinary Counsel that Nessel filed a lawsuit on behalf of another inmate against Wexford and one of its doctors, even though the inmate had not made any allegations against the doctor or the contractor. Morgan said Nessel refused to voluntarily dismiss the inmate from the claim, however.
Nessel filed a response to Morgan's claims in November 2011, saying he filed those cases against the Division of Corrections because he believed his clients were telling the truth.
"The WVDOC and its contracted agencies have a history of making documents disappear," he said in the response, saying there was a conspiracy to cover up the "plethora of rapes and sexual assaults that occur on WVDOC grounds."
Nessel alleged the division was on a "witch hunt to disparage my good name and character."
Despite Nessel's denials, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board filed charges against the lawyer. He will have a hearing before the board in early October.
"They are doing their job there," said Ben Bryant, Nessel's lawyer. The factual allegations made by a couple of witnesses are serious. Mr. Nessel is taking them very seriously."
Bryant said Nessel plans to file a written answer to the charges on Monday. He admits to sending clients small sums of money, but only out of compassion. Bryant said his client "absolutely denies" all the other charges.
"We're prepared to answer these charges at the formal hearing," he said. "Kerry Nessel is a very zealous advocate for his clients. He's a tough fighter. But consider his clients also: they are inmates of the division of corrections, serving prison sentences for crimes for which they have been convicted.
"Even though they're all convicted of crimes, or charged with crimes, they have a right to be free of sexual assault and mistreatment."
Bryant said Nessel has represented dozens of inmate clients in cases of sexual abuse, but only a handful has made allegations against him.
"One should look at this complaint, or statement of charges, in the context in which it arises," he said.
Following his October hearing, the Lawyer Disciplinary Board will make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court of Appeals, who will be charged with deciding Nessel's fate.
State law allows the court a wide range of options, including probation, community service, suspension or even disbarment.
Other Top HeadlinesCity unveils downtown revitalization project