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While Blacksburg lawyer Joseph Painter fights felony charges, his practice will be on hold.
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
The firm of a Blacksburg lawyer who is facing drug and gun charges has been placed under receivership.
According to a court order filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court on March 26, the Virginia State Bar requested that Tommy Joe Williams, a lawyer in Roanoke, be appointed receiver of Joseph Painter’s firm.
Williams will be allowed to “immediately inspect and possess any and all records, documents and physical or other evidence, including trust and operating accounts” belonging to Painter.
Williams will be in charge of auditing Painter’s records to assess the financial status of his practice, according to the order. He will also take responsibility for Painter’s clients.
Painter, 66, has been charged with driving under the influence, distribution of a Schedule IV controlled substance and two counts of selling or giving a firearm to a convicted felon. Painter was released on bond on March 29.
Edward Davis, counsel for the Virginia State Bar, said it can petition for a receiver in the event of a lawyer’s disability, impairment, absence or death.
“The hard part is finding a lawyer to do this kind of work,” Davis said. “It’s public service, and it’s roll-up-your-sleeves, tedious work. It’s a lot to ask for any attorney anywhere to do.”
Williams, who has been practicing law for 38 years, said Tuesday that he has been appointed receiver for a number of cases across the area and was contacted by the state bar about Painter’s firm. Williams’ law practice in Roanoke focuses primarily on business, wills and estates, he said.
Painter had about eight active clients and 30 to 40 semiactive clients when Williams took over as receiver, he said.
Williams said Painter’s firm has no operating funds right now, largely because Painter had so few active clients. Lawyers generally have about 40 to 50 active cases at a time, Williams said.
Williams, who is also handling his own cases , said his principal duties include making sure that Painter’s clients are taken care of, funds that belong in trusts are located as quickly as possible, trusts are repaid and creditors are paid.
Williams said that with some of his past cases, he has acted as receiver for as long as four years. He said he doubts that Painter’s case will take more than a year.
Williams said Painter did not have a partner at the firm .
Painter did share office space with Wade McNichols, who is representing Painter on his criminal charges.
McNichols could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.
Williams said he is being paid less than half of his normal hourly rate . His payment comes from the operating funds of the firm after all trust accounts are paid back.
Since it’s not too likely that Painter’s firm will have any operating funds, Williams said he will be compensated by the state bar, which will in turn seek restitution from Painter.
Williams said he has spoken with McNichols, Painter’s former secretary and Painter’s wife.
Williams, under the receivership, is prohibited from taking any of Painter’s clients. If need be, the local bar will help assist a client with finding new local counsel, Williams said.
Williams said that Painter’s return to his firm will depend on the status of his law license.
Davis said Painter’s law license remains active as of Tuesday.
If an attorney is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor theft, fraud, forgery, extortion, bribery or perjury, his or her license is summarily suspended until a hearing can be scheduled, Davis said. At that hearing, the attorney has the chance to argue why the license should not be revoked, he said. If an attorney’s license is revoked, he or she must wait at least five years before asking to be reinstated, Davis said.
Painter was arrested Feb. 26 after police received a call at 10:51 p.m. about a possible fight between a man and a woman in a car on North Franklin Street in Christiansburg, authorities have said. After officers located the car in the parking lot of the Super 8 motel on Laurel Street, a passenger in the vehicle, Doris Ann Oliver — a former client of Painter — also was arrested, according to authorities.
Oliver, 21, of Roanoke was charged with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, one count of possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, one count of possession of a controlled substance, one count of possession of controlled paraphernalia, one count of possession of marijuana and one count of possession of a concealed weapon.
Oliver was denied bond at a hearing in March.
Painter’s mental health issues and extensive firearm collection were two of the reasons he was initially denied bond in a lower court.
According to an order filed in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Feb. 27, Painter’s concealed handgun permit has been revoked. The order states that any individual facing felony charges is disqualified from obtaining a permit.
Painter’s next court date is scheduled for June 3, according to online records.
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