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Insurer doesn't want to cover former Mingo Judge Michael Thornsbury's claims

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A Pittsburgh-based insurer doesn't want to be on the hook for lawsuits stemming from former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury's alleged actions on the bench.

National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh is seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not obligated to defend or indemnify Thornsbury, who has been named in lawsuits filed by his former secretary and her husband alleging conspiracy and abuse of power.

Thornsbury resigned in October, the same day he pleaded guilty to conspiring to deprive a Mingo County sign maker of his constitutional rights in order to protect one of his political cronies, the late Eugene Crum. Crum, then the sheriff of Mingo County, had approached Thornsbury and other politicos for help in keeping White's Signs owner George White from telling the FBI about his alleged drug use.

White is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages from Thornsbury and other elected officials in a separate civil suit, claiming the political hierarchy in Mingo County “maliciously, corruptly and negligently” conspired to violate his civil rights, to arrest him for a crime he did not commit, search his business, confiscate unspecified items and cause him to be jailed for nine months without cause.

Thornsbury also is being sued separately by his former secretary, Kimberly Woodruff, and her husband, Robert, who allege the former judge abused the powers of his office to engineer Woodruff's arrest and manipulate a grand jury to pursue criminal charges against him in hopes he could force Kimberly Woodruff to sleep with him.

Robert Woodruff has sued Thornsbury, claiming the former judge deprived him of his civil rights, conspired to effect malicious prosecution, committed gross negligence and grossly negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment.

His wife, Kimberly, alleges she was sexually harassed by Thornsbury, her former boss, creating a hostile work environment and leading to her wrongful termination. Her suit also alleges conspiracy, gross negligence, grossly negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress by Thornsbury.

In exchange for Thornsbury's guilty plea, the government dismissed charges that the disgraced judge had framed Robert Woodruff and rigged the grand jury.

National Union contends that none of Thornsbury's alleged misdeeds fell within the scope of his duties as judge, and thus are not covered under the policy.

“The actions of which Thornsbury is accused in the Lawsuits cannot reasonably be considered as having been done in furtherance of the goals of either the State of West Virginia in the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia,” the complaint stated.

“Because the National Union Policies do not provide coverage to Thornsbury for the allegations contained within the Lawsuits, National Union does not owe coverage for the allegations and does not owe a defense to Thornsbury for any of his alleged conduct.”