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Former congressional candidate accepts public reprimand from bar

A Virginia State Bar discipline complaint that became an issue in a congressional campaign has been resolved with a public reprimand against the lawyer-candidate.

E. Wayne Powell of Midlothian acknowledged he used depositions in a workers’ compensation case to seek wide-ranging information from two businesses without disclosing related lawsuits filed against the companies.

The ethics charges against Powell, including accusations that he misrepresented his clients’ interests and even “affirmatively lied” to two witnesses, became an issue in Powell’s campaign to unseat Rep. Eric Cantor, R-7th, the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Cantor decisively defeated Powell in the Nov. 6 election.

The ethics charges arose out of Powell’s representation of six people who claimed injury from workplace chemical exposure. The six sought workers’ compensation benefits, but Powell also hoped to bring tort claims against two outside companies blamed for the chemical exposure.

Even though lawsuits had been filed, but not served, against those outside companies, Powell did not disclose the pending tort actions when he took depositions of management and employees of the outside companies. He asked about matters “far afield” from the worker compensation case while assuring the witnesses they had no exposure in the matter at hand.

Powell had asked that his discipline case be heard by a three-judge panel, but he reached an agreement with VSB regulators before the case was tried. In an agreed disposition approved by the circuit court judges Dec. 7, Powell acknowledged making a false statement and misconduct involving dealing with unrepresented persons.

The judges said they considered as mitigating factors the facts that the misconduct did not cause any actual prejudice, that Powell has practiced for 32 years without any prior disciplinary record and that Powell fully cooperated with the VSB.

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