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Berkeley County Circuit Clerk sues two attorneys for fees owed

February 15, 2013|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthewu@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Berkeley County Circuit Clerk Virginia M. Sine has filed lawsuits against two attorneys in an attempt to collect hundreds of dollars in fees they were charged upon obtaining copies of court documents from her office, according to court documents.

The lawsuits against Amanda L. Lewis, of Martinsburg, and Kenneth J. Ford, of Middle River, Md., were filed Feb. 6 in Berkeley County Circuit Court on Sine’s behalf by Norwood Bentley III, Berkeley County Council’s attorney.

Sine has asked the court to order Lewis to immediately pay $835.64 in fees and for Ford to pay $460.44, according to the lawsuits.

Ford, whose license to practice law in West Virginia was annulled last year, could not be reached for comment Thursday or Friday, but Sine said he contacted her office Friday morning and made arrangements to pay the bill in full by the end of March.

Lewis said Thursday she was unaware of the lawsuit and questioned the timing of the legal action.

“I haven’t heard anything from them about that for years,” Lewis said. “They wait until I’ve had a broken arm, down with medical bills and behind on my payments to bring suit against me now when the economy is down as well. And I’m really shocked that they’re doing that because I had offered to make payments on the account and they refused to accept them, they wanted full payment.”

“I really don’t understand why they would bring the suit without giving me further notice,” Lewis said.

The lawsuit alleges Lewis “received numerous notices of her delinquencies over the years, and while making some payments, has failed to pay the total expenses which she is lawfully obligated to pay to the clerk.”

Lewis, who was admitted to the West Virginia State Bar in 1993, said she has a solo private practice in Martinsburg.

Ford was admitted to the State Bar in 1999, but his license to practice in the state was annulled in March 2012 while facing multiple felony charges in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Ford was placed on five years probation in November 2012 after he pleaded guilty to five felony counts of obtaining money by false pretenses, one count of forgery of a public record and one count of uttering a public record.

Ford was ordered to pay $12,950 in restitution to clients who paid him for services that were not rendered and 23rd Judicial Circuit Judge Gray Silver III ordered him to serve 120 days in jail as a condition of probation.

The forgery and uttering allegations stemmed from a forged family court order that Ford filed in Sine’s office, according to court documents.

Sine said she would ask the lawsuit against Ford be dismissed if he follows through on the payment arrangement.

As the county’s elected circuit clerk, Sine is the official record keeper and fee officer for the circuit court, family court and mental hygiene office, among other duties. Her office is responsible for providing copies of various circuit court documents to attorneys and members of the public.

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