CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Calling his conduct reprehensible, West Virginia's Supreme Court stripped a veteran lawyer and frequent political candidate of his license Monday after he had someone involuntarily committed on mental health allegations later deemed untrue.
The unanimous ruling cited the convictions of H. John Rogers on false swearing and misuse of the mental hygiene system after he pleaded no contest to the misdemeanors. With those pleas, the New Martinsville lawyer did not admit guilt but chose not to challenge the case brought by prosecutors.
"Because Mr. Rogers exploited his knowledge of the law and our legal system to carry out a personal vendetta that resulted in a citizen of this state being involuntarily confined in a mental health care facility, we must send a strong message to the bar and to the public that this conduct will not be tolerated," said Monday's decision, which sets no new legal precedents.
The 73-year-old Democrat has run unsuccessfully for election multiple times over the decades, including for the Supreme Court last year. A 1966 Harvard law school graduate, Rogers on Monday quoted the verse from Omar Khayyám about accepting reality that legendary defense lawyer Clarence Darrow famously invoked during the 1924 Loeb-Leopold trial.
"You won't have H. John to kick around anymore," Rogers also said, paraphrasing Richard Nixon.
Rogers signed a hygiene petition alleging coffee shop owner Jeffrey Shade was suicidal, high on psychedelic drugs and had twice assaulted Rogers one day in July 2009. Shade was taken to a secure facility in nearby Ohio County where he was held for several hours. After an exam and medical tests, the petition against Shade was dismissed and he was released.
"These acts of dishonesty resulted in Mr. Shade being detained by a police officer in front of his son and being deprived of his personal freedom," the ruling said, referring to the two resulting misdemeanors. "We find that Mr. Rogers's conduct in this matter falls woefully short of the obligations a lawyer owes to the public, to the legal system and to the profession."