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Special counsel recommends W.Va. judge suspension

August 19, 2014
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A special counsel on Tuesday recommended a four-year suspension and censure for a Randolph County judge who acknowledged having an affair with a community corrections official.

Judge Jaymie Wilfong violated several canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct, including maintaining the integrity of and public confidence in the judiciary and avoiding the impression of improper influence.

She also is accused of "use of office to advance personal interest," according to a brief filed by the Judicial Investigation Commission's special judiciary counsel.

"Judge Wilfong's misconduct calls into question her judgment and brings the Randolph County system of justice into disrepute," the special counsel, Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti, wrote in a brief filed with the Judicial Hearing Board.

Wilfong's lawyers said there is no evidence to support most of the allegations. In a response to the brief, they said the judge's conduct does not warrant what they called "the death penalty" and proposed that she be reprimanded.

"There is nothing to support that she has been anything other than truthful in this difficult and embarrassing situation," lawyer David Sims wrote in his brief.

Cipoletti's brief said Wilfong performed sexual acts with former North Central Community Corrections director Travis Carter in her judicial chambers between court proceedings.

Wilfong also is accused of failing to disclose the relationship in court proceedings in which Carter or his staff were called on to provide testimony or opinions. She also did not disclose the relationship to the community corrections program's board, of which she is a nonvoting member, the brief said.

"Judge Wilfong's behavior exhibits a pattern and practice of a failure to maintain the honorable, high standards of conduct and integrity that the Canons require of her," Cipoletti wrote.

Wilfong's lawyers said the judge deserves a second chance.

"There is no excuse for her behavior, professionally or personally," Sims wrote. "She does, however, ask the Judicial Hearing Board to look at her circumstances and judge her fairly and impartially, and consider her twelve years on the bench — not just this transgression, which has played out publicly, when determining her fate."

On May 2, West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Davis removed Wilfong from hearing cases involving the county prosecutor's office. Davis said the disqualification was warranted to avoid an appearance of impropriety.

Wilfong's lawyers said the disqualification resulted in a "de facto suspension" because the cases make up about 80 percent of the judge's caseload.

"I think she's worn the scarlet letter long enough," lawyer Harry Deitzler said Tuesday in a telephone interview, referring to the novel about a Puritan woman who had to wear a scarlet letter because she committed adultery.

The Judicial Hearing Board will make a recommendation regarding Wilfong to the West Virginia Supreme Court.

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