WILLIAMSON – In a W.Va. State Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 30, Lauren Thompson, Williamson Attorney, has been held in contempt of court and denied eligibility for guardian ad litem and any other court appointments until an investigation is concluded in the untimely filing of response briefs in two child abuse and neglect appeals.
According to legaldictionary.com, guardian ad litem is defined as “a guardian appointed by the court to represent the interests of infants, the unborn or incompetent persons in legal actions.”
On Wednesday Oct. 14, Thompson released a statement. Thompson said, “During the current Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigation I must refrain from making direct public comment on the allegations against me. I must instead trust in my decisions, past and present, and the process.”
In a Memorandum Decision filed by the Supreme Court the document states that, “by orders entered on April 16 and March 13, Ms. Thompson was directed to file a respondent’s brief or summary response on or May 20, 2015. Ms. Thompson failed to file the response briefs by the May 20, 2015 deadline.”
The Memorandum Decision continues saying, “Accordingly, Notices of Intent to Sanction and Amended Scheduling Orders were entered on May 27, 2015 and by those orders Ms. Thompson was directed to file the response briefs on or Before June 1, 2015. Counsel was reminded that failure to file the response briefs could result in sanctions being imposed. Again, the response briefs were not filed by the June 1, 2015, deadline”
On June 11, the Memorandum Decision states that Thompson was issued a Rule to Show Cause for failure to file response briefs in a timely manner. “The Court’s orders entered on June 11, 2015, provided that the Rule to Show Cause was returnable at ten a.m. on Wednesday Sept. 2. The Court further directed Ms. Thompson to Show Cause why she should not be held in contempt of this Court, unless sooner mooted by the filing of the response briefs that fully complied with the Rules of Appellate Procedure.”
The Memorandum Decision explains that Thompson entered her motion and response briefs on Sept. 1, one day before the oral argument on the Rule to Show Cause.
Thompson’s motion states that “her response briefs were untimely filed due to a calendaring error and repeated staff changes in her office. Ms. Thompson further stated in her motion that the child currently awaits adoption by the child’s foster parents and the parties were not prejudiced by her late filings in these abuse and neglect cases.”
On Sept. 3, the Court found that, “Ms. Thompson’s justification for the untimely filing of the response briefs was unsatisfactory. The Court emphasized that abuse and neglect causes must be considered as expeditiously as possible in order to ensure the timely permanency for the child.”
Thompson submitted a response to the Sept. 3 order. The Memorandum Decision states that, “she articulated two reasons for the delay. First, she cited ‘action and inaction by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) and its failure to act in accordance to federal guidelines. Ms. Thompson attached her own affidavit in which she detailed her attempts to complain to local officials about staff shortages and turmoil at the DHHR.”
A statement included in Thompson’s affidavit states, “I have spoken to Judge Cummings about the issue. I have spoken with the family about these proceedings and my decision not to timely file a response. I have proffered repeatedly about the issues and my decision not to comply in hopes of bringing the issue to this Court. It may seem like foot – stomping and whining but that’s better than the alternative of turning a blind eye. If I did not try to do something, then I am failing at my duties.”
The Memorandum Decision states that, “Most troubling to the Court is Ms. Thompson’s lack of concern for the child she represents and the need for permanency in the child’s life.” The Memorandum Decision continues saying, “Accordingly, the Court hereby orders that Ms. Thompson be and hereby is, held in contempt of court for her willful violations of the orders of the Court.”
(Courtney Pigman is a news reporter for the Williamson Daily News. She can be contacted at [email protected], or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2279.)