Office of Disciplinary Counsel recommends 4-year suspension with - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Office of Disciplinary Counsel recommends 4-year suspension without pay for Randolph County, WV Circuit Judge Jaymie Wilfong

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West Virginia's Office of Disciplinary Counsel thinks a public censure would be letting disgraced Randolph County Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong off too easy.

ODC wants the Supreme Court to suspend Wilfong for four years without pay, censure her on all 25 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and require her to pick up the tab for the cost of investigating and prosecuting her for sexual misconduct.

Wilfong is accused of violating four canons of the code — upholding the integrity and independence of the judiciary, avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, performing duties of the judicial office impartially and diligently and conducting extra-judicial activities as to minimize the risk of conflict with judicial obligations — through her two-year extramarital affair with Travis Carter, executive director of the North Central Community Corrections Board.

She has admitted to performing sex acts with Carter in her chambers and sending nude pictures from her personal cell phone to his work phone and computer.

Wilfong, however, contends the affair “involves a personal, moral failing on her part and that she should not be disciplined for (her) conduct,” the ODC brief stated, noting that other courts have found the private aspects of a judge's conduct are secondary to the public problems it creates.

“Judge Wilfong's misconduct calls into question her judgment and brings the Randolph County system of justice into disrepute,” the ODC brief stated. “Public confidence in the judiciary is a fragile thing — Judge Wilfong should be suspended from office ‘not to punish the judge for [her] extensive wrongdoing, but to relieve from the bench a person whose further service will be detrimental to the judicial branch of government.”

ODC said Wilfong, who served on the NCCC board, failed to disclose her relationship with its director to her fellow board members. It also suggests Wilfong “utilized her position of power and influence to gain resources for Carter by lobbying the president of the Randolph County Commission.”

“Judge Wilfong willfully failed to disclose or otherwise disqualify herself in cases that involved Carter and his staff at NCCC,” the brief stated. “She involved other members of the bar to further her relationship with Carter and failed to disqualify herself from cases that involved those lawyers. Judge Wilfong utilized her judicial chambers in the peoples' court house to perform sexual acts upon Carter and relied upon her staff to explain Carter's constant presence in her office to the public. Judge Wilfong's constant pursuit of Carter impaired the peoples' courts ability to function as well as the daily operations of NCCC.

“Finally, even after being advised by the court administrator and a senior member of the Bar of the ethical implications of the relationship, despite assuring the two that the relationship was over, she immediately rekindled (it).”

Complaints about Wilfong's conduct were filed by seven members of the bar, including Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker (Oct. 15) and her law clerk, Mary Wendekier (Oct. 16.) Wilfong also self-reported her affair Oct. 14.

Wilfong testified in her own defense at an Aug. 11 hearing in Charleston. Both sides were given seven days to submit briefs.

The supreme court's decision is pending.