Today the Judicial Hearing Board of West Virginia made their Recommended Decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court in the case of the Family Court judge who searched the home of a litigant – my client, Matt Gibson. Despite the fact that disciplinary officials and the judge had already agreed to a punishment of a $5,000 fine and an “admonishment,” the Hearing Board only recommended “censure rather than admonishment” and “a fine of $1,000 instead of $5,000….”
At least one vote in this decision was The Honorable Glen Stotler, a sitting West Virginia Family Court Judge who “dissents because in his opinion there was no clear and convincing evidence that [his fellow Family Court Judge] violated any provision of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Mind you, the undisputed allegations included the admission that Judge Goldston violated “Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.2, 2.4(A), 2.4(B), and 2.5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct” for, among other things, threatening to put the homeowner in jail if he refused to allow her (along with his ex-wife, her lawyer, boyfriend, and two cops) inside his home to search.
As far as the rest of the board who voted for the reduced punishment, they noted in their decision that, “although there was no clear legal foundation for conducting the judicial view in question, the scope of a judicial officer’s inherent authority relative to judicial views is uncertain, and guidance to judicial officers from the Supreme Court of Appeals through rulemaking or otherwise regarding the proper scope of conducting judicial views would be beneficial.”
No clear legal foundation? A judge can show up at your home with law enforcement and search your house, and there’s no legal basis establishing that she can’t? They’re asking for guidance on “rulemaking” from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia on this grey area? “It is a basic principle of Fourth Amendment law that searches and seizures inside a home without a warrant are presumptively unreasonable.” Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 403 (2006). This applies to both criminal and other administrative type searches and seizures. See Marshall v. Barlow’s, Inc., 436 U.S. 307, 312-313, (1978) This is pretty damned clear. No state supreme court – not even a legislature – can create a new rule or law allowing a federal Fourth Amendment violation. Period.
“You’re not getting in my house without a warrant.”
“Oh yes I am…..”
Here’s the decision. It still goes to the Supreme Court, and they will make the actual decision. I’m told that the judicial disciplinary officials will be filing objections to the decision, and also objecting to the participation of Judge Stotler due to his impartiality.