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New City Attorney Starts Work Without Title

Daniel Callaghan

New Hampshire lawyer Daniel Callaghan was selected by Roanoke City Council from a pool of 33 applicants to fill the vacant Roanoke City Attorney position on July 16, 2012. Colin Baenziger of Baenziger & Associates was the same recruiter that located Chris Morrill for Roanoke city manager in 2010.

Morrill, Callaghan’s brother-in-law, in an email inquiry to his expected start date said, “I have not been involved in any of these details.” Morrill forwarded the inquiry to city clerk Stephanie Moon.

Morrill has remained removed from the appointment in order to avoid any appearance of conflict, though the city attorney reports to city council not to the city manager.

Moon said that Callaghan is expected to start on October 17 but it won’t be as city attorney. Instead, he will be “appointed as Manager of the City Attorney’s Office, and [appointed] as City Attorney upon his admission to the Virginia State Bar.” City council will vote on his appointment as “manager” at their October 15 Monday meeting.

The temporary “Manager” title still comes with a starting salary of $150,000. In July council said his hire date would be when he was admitted to the Virginia State Bar. There are four assistant city attorneys including acting city attorney Tim Spencer in the office now. This stop-gap measure will hold him over until he works his way through the process, which Callaghan explained had already been started.

Callaghan, 57, hails from Manchester, New Hampshire where he was a partner in the law firm of Devine, Millimet & Branch, one of the largest law firms in the state. The firm has 60 attorneys and 80 staff, with offices in Manchester and Concord. He earned his law degree from Villanova University.

The State of New Hampshire provides reciprocity with the Commonwealth for attorneys and they are not required to take the Bar Exam. Callaghan and his wife Clare, Morrill’s sister, will move into their downtown apartment October 15.

In an email, Callaghan said that he “received a report, via telephone call, from the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners that it has reviewed my application seeking admission to the Virginia Bar and the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners has determined that I am qualified to be admitted. The process for admission by the Virginia Supreme Court will be initiated after I arrive in Roanoke.”

He wasn’t sure when he would be licensed to practice law in Virginia. In a follow-up email he said he wasn’t “certain as to the process and timing. I plan to contact the Board of Bar Examiners on Wednesday, October 17th, and seek guidance and direction from that office.”

One of the requirements says that the applicant must have “verifiable plans to practice in Virginia … a job offer from a Virginia firm.” Until city council votes on the appointment Mr. Callaghan is in a “catch 22”  position. He needs council’s appointment as “manager” with intent to appoint him as the “city attorney” before this requirement is fulfilled.

After meeting all the requirements, a member of the Virginia State Bar qualified to practice before the Supreme Court will make an oral motion in open court for the applicant’s admission to practice law in Virginia. It is unclear whether the swearing in will occur in Virginia Supreme Court or in circuit court, as one local attorney confirmed. “Law students who have passed the bar exam are sworn in by what is fondly called ‘a cattle call’ because all new members of the bar from that exam are there,” said attorney Rena Berry.

There is a swearing in ceremony scheduled in Richmond at the Virginia Supreme Court on October 29 for those who took the bar examination July 24-15.

In a return phone call from city clerk Stephanie Moon, she explained that city council had the authority to create the temporary position of “Manager of the City Attorney’s Office” since it too will be a council appointed position. The city manager is the person who authorizes all new staff positions.

By Valerie Garner

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