The WV State Bar is pleased to announce this month’s MoreThanALawyer recipient, Duane Ruggier, a litigation attorney with Pullin Fowler Flanagan Brown & Poe, PLLC in Charleston, who has relentlessly advocated for a more accessible West Virginia to those challenged with a physical handicap. Duane was nominated by Vic Flanagan and Monica Nassif Haddad. Read below for Duane’s inspiring story.
Duane Ruggier was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his first year of law school in 1995. Duane, a high school athlete in basketball, soccer and tennis, went from walking and running normally to “walking the walls” and then using a cane, a walking rollator and now, a power chair. Despite his diagnosis, Duane continued to be a strong advocate for maintaining an active and productive lifestyle despite one’s disability. “I have never thought that things get better by just sitting on the couch worrying about your problems. I have always believed that it is better for you, your family and your State to get up and go to work no matter what your particular malady is.”
Duane has devoted significant time and effort to the National MS Society and in making West Virginia more accessible to his fellow disabled individuals. “Though I knew that I had to first provide for my family, it was also important for me to help those with MS and to make our State more accessible to all individuals. If you are not in a wheelchair then you just can’t understand that a three-inch curb might as well be 10 feet high or that a bathroom without grab bars prevents you from using the bathroom or that having to park at the back of the parking lot is too far of a distance to actually make it to the courthouse.”
Duane’s practice requires him to travel throughout the State, exposing him to many courthouses and businesses. “Wherever I go I try to make a positive change if I can.” With Duane’s advocacy he has been able to bring about changes to facilities such as courthouses, hotels, restaurants, schools and shopping centers including handicapped parking spaces at the Federal Courthouse in Charleston, the Harrison County Courthouse, Hurricane Middle School, Hurricane City Hall, CAMC General and at convenience stores, hotels and law firms around the state. He was also pivotal in creating handicapped bathrooms at the West Virginia Supreme Court, the West Virginia State Bar, CAMC Teays Valley, Logan County Courthouse, and in many law firms and restaurants. Duane is relentless in his quest for accessibility for the handicapped.
Duane also serves on the West Virginia Access to Justice Committee where he has assisted with garnering over $500,000 in ADA improvements to West Virginia courthouses. Dan Kimble, Director of the WV Access to Justice Commission, praises Duane: “As a member of the Access to Justice Commission, Duane has been invaluable in helping the Commission members, WVU College of Law students, government officials and the public, gain awareness to the barriers that limit the full potential of those with handicapping conditions. The great thing about Duane is that he doesn’t just see the barriers; he goes through them!”
As a member of the Board of Governors of the West Virginia Multiple Sclerosis Society, Duane is a frequent speaker and advocate regarding Multiple Sclerosis. With the assistance of his law firm, he has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the MS Society with their involvement in the MS 150 Bike Race, Dinner of Champions, MS Art Auction and the Women on the Move Luncheon. In 2015, the Inaugural Duane Ruggier MS Golf Tournament was first held at the Berry Hills Golf Club in Charleston, WV with all proceeds from the tournament going to benefit the MS Society. The annual tournament is supported by attorneys from all across the State of West Virginia from both the Plaintiff and Defense bars and hosts golfers from as far away as California and Texas and even Sweden. This year’s Sixth Annual Duane Ruggier MS Golf Tournament will be held at the Sleepy Hollow Golf & Country Club in Teays Valley, WV on October 11, 2021. Please contact Duane if you are interested in participating or sponsoring at [email protected].
Duane resides in Hurricane with his wife, Jennifer. He is grateful for the support of his wife and children, Duane III, Anthony, Isabella, Gabriel and Hannah. “When you have MS, the entire family has MS, and I am more than blessed to have an entire family behind me.” Thank you Duane, for your relentless advocacy improving the quality of life and ensuring the legal rights of those challenged by disability and for being so much More Than A Lawyer.