Special Reports

High court suspends Gricar's law license

The state Supreme Court has suspended missing District Attorney Ray Gricar's license to practice law because he did not pay a fee to renew it this year, county and state officials said.

But Gricar family attorney Amos Goodall said Tuesday the family will take immediate steps through the trusteeship of Gricar's daughter, Lara, to have the license reinstated.

The Supreme Court's disciplinary board requires all lawyers in the state to pay a $175 license renewal fee, due by July 1 each year. Gricar went missing three months before then and has not been seen or heard from since.

The Supreme Court on Oct. 27 ordered Gricar's law license and more than 500 others in the state to be suspended, and the order took effect Nov. 26. Pennsylvania has about 5,500 active licensed lawyers.

Elaine Bixler, disciplinary board secretary, said the license can be reinstated with the payment of the $175 plus $200 in late fees and a signature on the renewal form of Gricar or someone vested with the power of attorney.

The Centre County Court of Common Pleas in September appointed Lara Gricar her father's trustee, "authorized to take charge of the property" of Gricar, according to the court order, and "with authority to execute all documents on behalf of Ray F. Gricar."

Goodall said a court-ordered trustee has stronger authority than power of attorney to manage the affairs of another. He said no one brought the unpaid bill to the attention of the family.

"This is the kind of slip up that happens when everybody is concerned about someone's well-being," Goodall said. "We are taking steps to reinstate that immediately. ... We believe that Ray is still alive, and we want to keep things in place for him so that he can start his life again and have his affairs in order for him."

Mark Smith, acting district attorney, said he opened Gricar's law license renewal notice when it came to his office and tried to renew it but was rebuffed in Harrisburg.

"They basically said I couldn't sign his name," Smith said.

Gricar, who planned to retire at the end of this year after two decades as Centre County's district attorney, went missing on Friday, April 15, after he called his girlfriend and housemate Patty Fornicola and told her he was taking a drive along state Route 192 in Brush Valley.

The red-and-white Mini Cooper he was driving was found in an antiques mall parking lot next to the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg, and the mall owner told police he had seen someone matching Gricar's description standing inside the mall at about noon Saturday, as if waiting for someone.

Gricar has a history of going out and meeting people in his work as district attorney, the county's top criminal prosecutor.

Gricar's laptop computer and what is thought to be its hard drive were later found separately in the Susquehanna River, and an FBI lab has been given the hard drive to see if it contains any information.

Bellefonte police Officer Darrel Zaccagni said Tuesday he hoped to have a report on the hard drive from the FBI by the end of this week.

Zaccagni said hunting season has not produced any new leads.

"I was kind of hoping for a dry hunting season with no snow on the ground," Zaccagni said. "With snow on the ground, there's the possibility that stuff's going to be below it and (a hunter) is not going to see it now."

Mike Joseph can be reached at 235-3910.