WV Civil Rights Lawyer

Police Misconduct, Civil Rights Law

Gun Law CLE 2017

Along with several other lawyers, including Ian Masters, I am co-presenting a legal seminar on gun laws in West Virginia on April 25, 2017 in Charleston, West Virginia.

The topics include West Virginia laws related to the concealed carry of firearms, relevant state and federal statutes pertaining to firearms, liability concerns, and more.

Although the seminar is geared towards lawyers, the information is necessary for all people who value, and who want to protect, Second Amendment rights.

Here’s a photo of me hard-at-work preparing my lecture:


Here is a link to the agenda and signup information.

February 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bumgarner excessive force lawsuit in the news

Today the Charleston Gazette-Mail published an article about the retired West Virginia state trooper we represent in a federal police brutality lawsuit.

Retired trooper John E. Bumgarner filed a lawsuit against the town of Alderson last July in which he accuses three of its officers of excessive force. Monroe County lawyer John Bryan, who represents Bumgarner, told the Gazette-Mail that he’s been contacted by agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in Charleston, and officials with the Department of Justice, in Washington.

“They have requested the video footage and documents, which we are providing,” Bryan said Wednesday.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20161228/feds-look-into-retired-wv-troopers-beating-claims#sthash.fDa5lseT.dpuf


December 29, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FYI – new WV Supreme Court case: you can get a DUI on private property, on an ATV

An attorney friend if mine in my county told me about this case he had.  Apparently it was in the news and I missed it.  But I think it bears repeating.  A client of his was injured driving an ATV on his family’s (private) property.  He was charged with DUI.  The local court system threw the criminal charge out.  But the gestappo-esque DMV proceeded to suspend his license and litigate the matter all the way to the WV Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court ruled that the WV DUI statute applies anywhere in the state, including on your own private property – even on an ATV.  God bless the nanny state.  I feel safer already.

Read the opinion here.

Read the Charleston Gazette-Mail article on the opinion here.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Excessive force lawsuits filed against West Virginia State Police troopers

As reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail this morning, last week we filed two new excessive force lawsuits against West Virginia State Police troopers.  Both suits have the same primary defendant trooper.  An excerpt from the article:

Two men claim in separate lawsuits filed in federal court that they were beaten in a hallway with no surveillance cameras inside the Welch detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

Aaron Akers claims in a lawsuit filed Friday that State Police Trooper Ralph Justus broke Akers’ back during a beating inside the detachment. Akers is also suing Trooper B.D. Gillespie, who he claims was in a nearby room with Akers’ brother and could hear the beating but did nothing to stop it.

Antonio Tolliver filed a separate lawsuit Oct. 27 against Justus, as well as Troopers Christopher Kane and Jacob Mann and another trooper who has yet to be identified.

Tolliver claims he was brutally beaten by the troopers two years ago in the hallway, which is located outside the booking room.

Both Tolliver and Akers are represented by Monroe County lawyer John Bryan, who said Friday that he is encouraging any witnesses to the alleged incidents involving Akers and/or Tolliver, or any similar incidents, to contact him. Sgt. Michael Baylous, a spokesman for the State Police, did not return requests for comment Friday or Sunday.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20161106/lawsuits-claim-state-police-beatings-in-welch#sthash.wLxxCKom.dpuf

November 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the news: our client is on life support after use of force during arrest



Today the charleston Gazette-Mail featured our client, Mark D. Messer, who has been on life support since August 18, following a use of force incident during his misdemeanor arrest by the Logan County Sheriff’s Department.

Katrina Seabolt says she witnessed a Logan County Sheriff’s deputy throw her brother to the ground about three weeks ago….

Mark Messer, 54, has been on life support in a Charleston hospital ever since an incident on Mud River Road in Logan on Aug. 18.

“It’s under investigation right now,” Logan Chief Deputy Mike Mayes said on Friday. “Whenever it involves use of force, this office investigates it.”….

Messer’s family has hired Monroe County lawyer John Bryan. He said last week that no one from the sheriff’s department has reached out to the family since the incident.

“My goals are to find out what happened,” Bryan said. “I want any documentation from law enforcement about the incident.”

– See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20160905/man-on-life-support-after-beating-from-logan-deputy-family-says#sthash.RsJhU9yB.dpuf

September 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Walnut Springs case in the news again

One of the developers of the multi-million dollar Walnut Springs development in Monroe County made the news last month for pleading guilty in federal court to bank fraud charges.

See Monroe Developer Pleads Guilty to Federal Charges

My clients, as well as myself, were surprised at being the last to know about this development given the fact that we assisted the FBI in developing their case, and were initially labeled as victims.  However, the wheel of justice came to rest on labeling the bank as the victim, leaving the actual victims out of the equation altogether.  Thankfully, the media picked up on this and published another story.

People who purchased land more than a decade ago on a Monroe County mountaintop aren’t surprised, their lawyer says, that the man who was supposed to develop that land pleaded guilty to a federal crime.

What is surprising, said Monroe County lawyer John Bryan, is that developer Daniel Berg hasn’t been charged by federal prosecutors with lying to the people who bought the land. Many of those people claim in a lawsuit that Berg lured them to purchase overpriced property that he had promised to turn into a multi-million-dollar housing subdivision, but never did.

“My clients were surprised,” Bryan said Friday. Surprised because they aren’t considered the victims in the federal case against Berg, he said.

Bryan said he and his clients spent a lot of time working with federal authorities during their investigation into the mountaintop development.

“We were told there was going to be a prosecution and we spent years working with federal investigators, doing victim interviews and showing how they were financially impacted by the fraud,” he said.

Bryan represents 33 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in 2009 in Monroe County Circuit Court who purchased property on the mountain and allege a former United Bank vice president worked to inflate appraisals of the property. The lawsuit also claims United Bank knew of the scheme. The bank has denied the allegations, according to court documents.

See Monroe Land Purchasers Say They’re Victims of Developer’s Crime, Charleston Gazette-Mail, by Kate White.

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New excessive force lawsuit filed on behalf of retired state trooper

Article in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

A retired West Virginia State Police trooper claims in a lawsuit that he was beaten up two years ago by three Alderson police officers.

John E. Bumgarner, a retired trooper, filed the lawsuit against the town of Alderson on July 1 in federal court in Beckley. He claims the town, through its police department, encourages the use of undocumented excessive force.

The Complaint:

View this document on Scribd

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carpenter case in the news

In the Sunday edition of the Charleston Gazette-Mail, the Carpenter lawsuit, which we recently filed against several West Virginia state troopers, was highlighted in a lengthy article.

State Water Development Authority Director Chris Jarrett had his nephew, a West Virginia State Police officer, send troopers to conduct a search of an Elkview home as part of a custody battle over Jarrett’s 16-year-old granddaughter, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court. 

. . .

The lawsuit asserts that Jarrett’s nephew, Sgt. J.D. Perry, used the sex offender verification requirements as a “‘Trojan horse’ to get into the [Carpenters’] residence in order to search for evidence sought by Jarrett.”

Amid the investigation, Jarrett allowed a trooper to question his granddaughter at the state water agency’s headquarters building in Charleston, said John Bryan, the Carpenters’ lawyer. The officer searched the girl’s cell phone for pictures of her parents using drugs, according to a water agency employee who witnessed the search. 

. . .

The Carpenters’ lawsuit alleges that Jarrett, with the assistance of his nephew who was stationed at the State Police’s Quincy detachment in 2014, sent troopers to the Carpenters’ home to gather information to use against them in Kanawha County Family Court.

. . .

The Carpenters’ lawyer said the lawsuit is the first of its kind in West Virginia to address allegations of troopers using the sex offender verification process to conduct an illegal search.

“I think it’s a pattern or practice that they’ve probably been engaging in for a while and nobody’s called them out on it,” said Bryan, who works from an office in Monroe County.

Bryan said prosecutors across the state have previously told him about troopers using the sex offender registration verification process to conduct warrantless searches.

“Then when I heard about it in this case I looked into it and, when I looked up the actual police reports where these state troopers wrote what their conduct was, I was surprised to see it in black and white,” Bryan said.

Bryan said the Carpenters’ case is similar to a lawsuit he filed that prompted troopers to be re-trained on “no-knock” search warrants.

In that case, a 72-year-old Doddridge County man ended up dying after a State Police SWAT team conducted a no-knock entry into his home. In December, the State Police’s insurance company agreed to pay $85,000 and retrain troopers about no-knock search warrants. A search warrant must be obtained before police are allowed to enter without first identifying themselves.

– See more at: http://www.wvgazettemail.com/news-cops-and-courts/20160605/wv-water-agency-director-had-troopernephew-direct-sex-offender-search-during-custody-battle-suit-alleges#sthash.P1i2Kp1t.dpuf

June 6, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lawsuit filed against Ritchie County on behalf of former deputy

As was reported in the Charleston Gazette today, on Friday, together with Ron and Scott Windom of Windom Law Offices in Harrisville, WV, we filed a lawsuit against Ritchie County, including the Sheriff of Ritchie County, and the Chief Administrator.

The Gazette reported:

A former Ritchie County sheriff’s deputy has sued the sheriff who fired him, claiming his civil rights were violated when the sheriff installed a GPS tracking device on his police cruiser without a warrant.

James Asbury, 49, of Berea, filed the lawsuit against Ritchie Sheriff Bryan Backus and Ronald Barniak, a former sheriff in Ritchie County and Backus’ chief administrator. In the complaint, which was filed in Ritchie Circuit Court on Friday, Asbury claims that Backus and Barniak have a history of violating deputies’ constitutional right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure.

Yes, even though the County owns a police cruiser in the possession of a deputy, federal law provides that a GPS search of that vehicle cannot be performed without a warrant.  Police officers have constitutional rights just like the rest of us.

What is even more interesting about this story is that my client, Jim Asbury, was a former defendant in an excessive force 1983 lawsuit I filed on behalf of Brian Sawyer – which was perhaps my most infamous case.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Opposing counsel, at least at the pre-litigation stage, is the same lawyer who represented Deputy Asbury at the two jury trials, and two Fourth Circuit appeals against me in that case.  So, same police officer involved.  Same two lawyers.  But now the one suing him is representing him.  And the one defending him is opposing him.

A little more from the Gazette article:

Asbury’s lawsuit also claims that the sheriff told grand jurors about the locations Asbury traveled while off duty and reminded them that their taxes pay for Asbury’s expenses.

“You guys need to know that I think everybody here knows me, and they know that I handle problems. Look at my record with employees in the past,” the lawsuit alleges the sheriff told grand jurors. “I try to take care of problems  It’s your money  It’s taxpayer money that he was taking from  It’s a very bad situation.”

This sheriff appears to be using a criminal grand jury as an HR department.  I guess that’s one way around the civil service rights of deputies.

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New lawsuit filed against the WVSP for unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution


We filed suit yet again against the West Virginia State Police for what appears to be another pattern and practice of unconstitutional conduct.  The WVSP is tasked by statute with “verifying” sex offender registry addresses.  As we allege, the only time this particular client was ever “verified” was when they were seeking to search for unrelated evidence without the bother of swearing under oath to a magistrate or judge that probable cause exists for a search warrant.

In other words, do registered sex offenders who are not on parole, probation, or supervised release, have any Fourth Amendment rights not to have their home searched at the will of the WVSP with no warrant?  I don’t think so.

View this document on Scribd

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment