West Virginia's Judicial Hearing Board recommends suspending Ran - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia's Judicial Hearing Board recommends suspending Randolph County judge for courthouse affair

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The Judicial Hearing Board wants Randolph County Circuit Judge Jaymie Goodwin Wilfong suspended a total of three years without pay censured, fined a total of $20,000 and required to pay court costs for 11 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct stemming from an affair she had with Travis Carter, former director of the county's community corrections board.

The board's opinion, released Aug. 22, cites Wilfong's own admissions as well as “clear and convincing evidence” that the judge failed to maintain the standards expected of a member of the judiciary “when she elected to conduct her illicit sexual relationship in the courthouse during court hours; placed others in an untenable position when she disclosed and/or used them to facilitate her illicit sexual relationship; represented to others that the relationship has or was ending, but then continued or resumed the relationship because of the ethical problems the relationship presented; and failed to disqualify herself in matters where her impartiality might reasonably be questioned based upon her relationship with (Carter).”

The opinion said Wilfong had admitted her actions were improper and undermined public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and the board said the affair clearly impacted Wilfong's performance as judge, pointing out she'd admitted to having sex in her chambers during court hours; confiding the affair to office workers, putting them “in a difficult position with respect to the performance of their official duties.” The board said Wilfong should have disqualified herself from any matter involving the North Central Community Corrections Program while the affair was ongoing.

In all, the board found Wilfong guilty of 11 of the 12 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct with which she'd been charged, saying Wilfong's conduct clearly demeaned the office but that there was no evidence she had allowed the affair to influence her decisions on the bench.

“A judge is held to a higher standard of personal and professional conduct and illicit sexual relationships involving judges are inconsistent with the ‘high standard of conduct' required of judges,” the board wrote, “particularly where those relationships involve persons who appear before a judge; sexual relations are conducted on courthouse property and/or during court hours; others with whom a judge worked and/or over whom a judge had power were placed in a compromising situation...'

The investigation began in October after office workers and members of the legal community, including Randolph County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Parker, filed complaints. Wilfong also self-reported the affair, but, the board noted, only after she had been contacted by the Judicial Investigation Commission's counsel about its probe into her relationship with Carter, “which precipitated the termination of (his) employment; the expenditure of about $50,000 by the County Commission; the imposition of administrative and financial burdens on the West Virginia Judiciary as a result of her disqualification from all cases handled or otherwise prosecuted by the Randolph County Prosecutor, including the recall of two Senior Status Judges” to hear cases to which Wilfong would ordinarily have been assigned. The board also cited “potentially irreversible damage” to her relationships with the local bar, county officials and general public.

The Office of Disciplinary Counsel and Wilfong now have 30 days in which to file their consent or objections to the board's findings and recommended punishments with the clerk of the state Supreme Court of Appeals

If both parties consent, the Supreme Court then would file an order consistent with the review board's recommendation. If the court does not agree with the recommendations or if Wilfong objects, both sides would have to file briefs and/or oral arguments, after which the high court would render a decision.

Wilfong admitted the two-year affair with Carter, including performing sex acts in chambers and sending him nude pictures from her personal cell phone to his work phone and computer. However, she contends the affair “involves a personal, moral failing on her part” and had suggested she should not be disciplined for her conduct .