This morning we submitted a Reply to the WV Supreme Court to the brief submitted by the State GOP in the lawsuit we filed against the Governor in the District 19 legislative vacancy dispute. Here is the filing, which hopefully clears up the confusion and uncertainty between the legal structure and authorities of state political party committees and local political party committees. As discussed in the last post on the topic, everyone from the top down seems to be confused. Hopefully this clears things up.
It should be noted that there are 100 legislative districts in the WV House of Delegates, each representing about 18,000 voters. 43 out of the 100 districts are contained wholly within a single county, and therefore vacancy nominations for those 43 single-county districts go to the county political executive committee. The state committee has no authority under the law to inject a veto or control the process. If the State GOP is allowed to do so, that would equal roughly 774,000 voters who lose their representation in vacancy nomination decisions. Note: the Democrat Party has not attempted to inject their state committee into the local legislative vacancy process.
Here’s my handy diagram on how all political party committees are structured under West Virginia law. Note that all committees have the right to elect their own officers, make their own internal rules, and contain a body of voting members elected by voters. They are limited, however, in that they cannot create internal rules that are inconsistent with state law.
Therefore, while the State GOP claims to be able to control the legislative vacancy process through making new bylaws, their argument is flawed because doing so is entirely inconsistent with State Code, which gives the local committees exclusive authority to nominate seat vacancies. You can’t get around that by changing the internal rules in the bylaws. That seems obvious, but apparently they did it anyways…..
The Supplemental Appendix (Exhibits) referenced in the Reply:
Oral arguments are currently scheduled for Tuesday at 2:00 p.m. at the WV Supreme Court. It should be available live on the Court’s website. I go over many of these details in the live video from Wednesday night. Not the most exciting topic, but important:
Now there’s national attention on our supposed “fracture” in the West Virginia GOP caused by our Governor and the State Party interfering with local voters’ statutory right to choose the candidates for replacement of a legislative vacancy within their county:
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — On a beach vacation in South Carolina with his family, Jay Marcum was awaiting a call from the governor of West Virginia. He was a finalist for the vacant seat of a state legislator who resigned after being charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol in the Jan. 6 riot. Instead, state Republican leaders ordered a redo on candidate applications and insisted Marcum return home for an in-person interview.
“I don’t really understand why we can’t do a Zoom,” he told them. Nevertheless, the 51-year-old small-business owner packed up his disappointed children and left Myrtle Beach at 6 a.m. for the nine-hour trip home.
Ultimately, his journey was for naught: Republican Gov. Jim Justice ended up appointing neither Marcum nor either of the two other candidates who had been placed on a shortlist by GOP party leaders in Wayne County, where the delegate seat is located. Justice instead appointed a political neophyte, enraging Republicans in the rural county and unleashing accusations of subterfuge and backdoor politics in the Mountain State.
If you want to understand more about this, and even compare what the Republicans have done to their own constituents this past year by attempting to usurp the process with their bylaws, you very well might be outraged at what they’ve done. You’re probably not even aware of it though, because it’s been well hidden in the swamp water.
There’s a giant red herring in this case, disguising a massive power grab that is occurring right before our eyes.
The Governor, the Attorney General and the State GOP are either intentionally, or mistakenly, operating under the premise that a county party executive committee in West Virginia is somehow a subcommittee and subservient to the state party executive committee (or as the State GOP terms it, “subordinate”). What’s being lost in the mix – perhaps by design – is that a county party executive committee, or even a delegate or senatorial district committee, is a separate organization – a separate committee – from that of the state party. It is not a subcommittee of the state executive committee. Nor is it subservient to the state executive committee.
Don’t quite understand? Let’s get into the weeds….
The State Republican Executive Committee has its bylaws, which it can amend, revise, or modify. Likewise, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee has its own bylaws. The state committee cannot modify the county committee’s bylaws. Nor can the county committee modify the state committee’s bylaws. Perhaps I need to make a diagram. Let’s try this (not drawn to scale, LOL):
Now…. so if Delegate Sniffy McSniffer resigns his theoretical seat in the WV House of Delegates, and his seat district lies in 2 or more counties (so “multi-county”), the executive committee that would convene and perform the process of choosing 3 qualified candidates for presentment to the Governor for his appointment, would be Sniffy McSniffer’s district executive committee, organized and created under W. Va Code §3-1-9(b) (see above handy diagram), and comprised of elected local members from those districts (in two or more different counties). Since the legislative district is multi-county, it has its own executive committee elected (because it can’t logically or technically be done in just one county executive committee).
Then…. so if Delegate Rusty Shackleford resigns his theoretical seat in the WV House of Delegates shortly after Delegate McSniffer, there’s another legislative vacancy which needs to be filled pursuant to the process outlined by state code in W. Va. Code § 3-10-5. This is the same code section, but different executive committee. Why? Because Delegate Shackleford’s legislative district lies wholly within one county. Therefore, since it’s not a multi-county district, pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-9(c) (see handy chart above) the elected committee members (still elected by party voters at their local precincts) are all already members of the county executive committee of that particular county.
There is no separate executive committee for those districts. They are technically just subcommittees of the county executive committee (assuming all of the county members don’t reside in the vacant legislative district). Thus, Del. Shackleford’s replacement is chosen by the county executive committee, at a meeting convened of its members who reside in the vacant district. They vote, and then that executive committee conveys the nominees to the Governor for his appointment of one of those qualified individuals.
The state code for legislative vacancy replacement is clear: it’s the elected local committee members who make the nominations, whether via their own multi-county executive committee, or via the county executive committee for single-county districts. Which brings us to the real problem here: the State GOP has engaged in an attempted power grab to give itself a veto and technical control over this vacancy replacement process. This is what the State GOP inserted into their bylaws (i.e., not the bylaws of county and district committees which are separate political committees under state law):
Section 4. Vacancy in the State Legislature: Wherever else public or Party law requires the filling of an elected office by a Party Committee, the State Senate Executive Committee or House of Delegate Executive Committee, whatever the case may be, shall fulfil their obligations in accordance with state law as provided in this rule….
(c) The State Party Chairman, or their designee, shall facilitate the process of conducting interviews and filling such office by whatever means necessary, which shall include but is not limited to, facilitating and conducting the interviews, calling special meetings of the District Vacancy Committee, and certifying the results of such committee meetings to the Governor. The State Chairman shall take care to see that each candidate nominated by the Republican Party for such office is constitutionally eligible.
(d) The State Chairman and State Party Staff shall, in consultation with the elected Chair of the District Vacancy Committee, prepare a list of questions that will be asked of candidates during their interview process. The State Chairman and State Party Staff shall ensure that there is adequate public notice of such vacancy and that there are at least Seventy-two (72) hours between the time that the notice is posted publicly and the time that the application period closes.
a. The nomination of such candidates for a vacancy shall occur in the following manner:
i. If there are three (3) candidates who have applied, the Vacancy Committee need not convene, unless called to do so by the State Chair, the District Vacancy Chair, or upon the application of forty percent (40%) of the members of the District Vacancy Committee. In such cases, should there be only three candidates, and the committee is not called, the State Chairman shall certify those three names to the Governor and shall provide a copy to the Secretary of State.
ii. If there are less than three (3) candidates, the Vacancy District Committee shall convene and endeavor to fill the remaining slots from a list of eligible registered Republicans who are constitutionally eligible to hold such office and are registered to vote in and reside in the District from which the vacancy arises.
iii. If there are more than three (3) candidates who apply for such office, interviews will be conducted in person at a location in the District, unless such district is within twenty-five (25) miles of the State Party Headquarters, at which point the interviews shall be conducted at State Party Headquarters. All interviews will be uniform and no candidate shall be asked different questions, questioned by individual committee members, or be given more or less time. Upon the conclusion of the interviews, the District Vacancy Committee shall deliberate and choose three candidates to submit to the Governor. The District Vacancy Committee shall vote by blank ballot and no name shall be placed on the list submitted to the Governor unless they receive a majority of votes cast. The members of the District Vacancy Committee shall vote for up to three candidates on the first round of balloting. If any candidate receives a majority of votes cast, that candidate shall be nominated and their name shall be removed from the next round of voting. In succeeding rounds of balloting, the committee members shall only be allowed to vote for the number of slots left to nominate. In each succeeding round of balloting, the candidate receiving the fewest votes shall be eliminated for the next round of balloting, unless there are multiple candidates who receive the fewest amounts of votes. This process shall continue indefinitely until a slate of three (3) candidates is nominated.
iv. Upon the conclusion of the committee interviews and action, the State Chairman, District Vacancy Committee Chairman (or Vice Chair in the absence of the Chair), and District Vacancy Committee Secretary shall certify, by letter on State Party letterhead, the list of three (3) names for such vacancy. This letter shall be filed by the State Party Staff within twenty-four (24) hours of the letter being signed by all three officers. All letters and certification papers shall be filed with the Governor of West Virginia and the West Virginia Secretary of State.
v.In any case where there is no Senate Vacancy Committee or Delegate Vacancy Committee due to the district being wholly within one county, the County Chair shall appoint a subcommittee which shall act as the vacancy committee and the process of such committee be facilitated by the County Chair and State Chair. In such case, the names of the three (3) nominated candidates shall be certified by the County Chair, County Secretary, and State Chair.
Note that last subsection….They’ve gone completely power mad. But this is where they’re saying that there’s a requirement that the State Chair must be involved and certify the process, etc. It’s in their own new insane bylaws – not state code, nor in county/district bylaws!
So, can the State GOP do that? They’ve effectively changed W. Va. Code § 3-10-5, which gives the local executive committees (whether county or multi-county local legislative district) the important authority of vetting and nominating their local candidates. W. Va. Code § 3-10-5 does not give the state executive committee that authority. Even the new aggressive State GOP bylaws recognize this authority:
ARTICLE XIII – Regulation of Subordinate Party Executive Committees
Section 1. Jurisdiction. In the interest of effective organization and party harmony, the State Executive Committee and its Chairman shall and will exercise jurisdiction, control and authority over the County, Senatorial, Delegate District, and Congressional Committees of the Republican Party in West Virginia in all matters having to do with: (i) the filling of vacancies when any such Committee is unable to do so, (ii) the election of any officer of the committee in the event of a tie vote, and (iii) of any other matter of the business of any such committee which in the opinion of the State Executive Committee or the State Chairman shall be of sufficient importance to the Republican party to require removal from local consideration and action by the State Executive Committee.
Note that the State GOP uses the word “subordinate” in their new bylaws. That word does not come from W. Va Code §3-1-9 (see chart above). However, it clearly expresses their attitude towards local elected committee members. But even in these outrageous bylaws, they are required to acknowledge that they can only possibly attempt to intervene “when any such Committee is unable to do so,” or some other situation of “sufficient importance” in the opinion of the State GOP. Again, this is authorized nowhere in the State Code, which created a state executive committee and other county and district executive committees separate and apart from each other – not “subordinate.”
Even assuming the questionable legality of these Myanmar style bylaws, there are still due process protections for the peasant local committee members (who mind you, are the only ones elected by the people of that district – unlike the state committee members from the 54 other counties):
Section 2. Temporary Exigent Jurisdiction. If, in the opinion of the Chairman of the State Executive Committee, time is of the essence in regard to the issue or issues in controversy, the Chairman may exercise discretion to resolve the issue or issues in controversy, on a temporary basis by taking such action as they may deem in the best interests of the Republican Party by filling any vacancy, naming any officer, or taking what other action may be provident and they shall notify in writing the members of any subordinate committee of their action within ten (10) days thereafter, which action shall become final and binding upon the County, Senatorial, Delegate District, or Congressional Committees of the Republican Party in West Virginia and their members, unless a notice of appeal in writing filed by no less that 50 percent of the members of any such committee is filed with the Secretary of the State Committee within ten (10) days after the date of mailing of the notice, as herein above provided for, by the said Chairman to the members of such committee. Such notice of appeal to the Secretary shall be sent by certified or registered mail. Any such action taken by the Chairman in accordance with the terms of this section shall be in full force and effect from the date of his action until any appeal therefrom is adjudicated in accordance with the provisions of section three hereof.
Section 3. When any such question or controversy arises in any such County, Senatorial, Delegate District, or Congressional Committee, which the Chairman deems not to require immediate action upon his part as provided for in section two, or if written notice of appeal has been properly filed, as herein before provided for, from any decision of the Chairman made according to the provisions of Article XII, Section 2 of these Bylaws, the Chairman of the State Executive Committee shall appoint a panel of four members who, with such Chairman, shall constitute a Board of Arbitration to hear evidence on the issue. After hearing all the evidence of any and all parties in interest, the Board shall by secret ballot decide the issue in writing and such decision shall be final and binding upon all parties concerned.
Just briefly going back to the questionable legality of this, since the 55 county executive committees, as well as the numerous legislative district executive committees, now have these new rules hoisted upon them, did they consent to this transfer of power? Pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-9(g), each of these committees, like the state executive committee, has their own independent officers, organization and political divisions. Many, such as the county in dispute in this case, have their own bylaws. Now all of a sudden, the state gets to step in, and there’s an “arbitration board” just to make things really difficult?
County and local legislative district political committees are not subcommittees of the state executive committee, but rather separate political committees, independent and different than the state committee.
According to the state code which created all of these committees, pursuant to W. Va Code §3-1-11, no political committee – state included – can modify their bylaws in such a way as to be “inconsistent” with, or “in contravention” with (e.g. violation of) state code.
So now you understand the red herring here: whether on purpose or by misunderstanding, the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee was refused an appointment of their vetted and nominated list of three qualified candidates. This wasn’t just because the Governor and/or the State GOP didn’t like anyone on the list, but more importantly (and more mischievously) because as of the Summer of 2020, the State GOP has engaged in a power grab in the vacancy process, attempting to take authority from local elected committee members, who know their constituents and candidates, and placing that authority in state party political leaders from outside that constituency, and who are un-elected by that constituency.
Why doesn’t the state party just go ahead and substitute themselves in for individual voters in general – at least for the primaries. They know best, right? The voters don’t understand what’s best for the party. It’s about the big picture…. In case you’ve forgotten, by the way, the legal structure of party political committees applies to all political parties. Believe it or not, Democrat voters have not been disenfranchised in this way and strong-armed by their state executive committee. You can review the Democrat state executive committee bylaws here. They don’t contain any attempts by the state party to usurp the authority of the county or district members. In fact, this is all I could find, as far as interference:
4. Vacancies: If a County Executive Committee fails to meet its obligation to fill a vacancy on the committee within 60 days of the vacancy occurring the State Chair may appoint a replacement.
And mind you, that’s for vacancies on the county executive committees – not vacancies for the legislature. They don’t even have any provision whatsoever providing that the state committee can interfere, or even participate, with that process. After all, that would be “in contravention” of state law placing that authority at the county level, would it not?
I’m working hard on reacting to what has been submitted by the State GOP here – and mind you, so I’m told, even the Democrats agree with Wayne County here – so as a part of that process, I am presenting the affidavit of my client, detailing exactly what happened, and providing the troubling details omitted by the State GOP surrounding the execution of the second list of candidates sent to the Governor by the State GOP:
Just a little while ago we received the Governor’s response to our Petition for Writ of Mandamus in the Wayne County Delegate District 19 dispute. It was drafted and submitted by the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office.
I’ll note that the response accuses us of misreading the statute. In reality, they misunderstand the differences between multi-county delegate districts and delegate districts contained wholly within a single county. Where a district resides wholly inside one county, it is the county executive committee which presides over those committee members from that county in calling a meeting and voting on new candidates to provide to the Governor.
In any case where there is no Senate Vacancy Committee or Delegate Vacancy Committee due to the district being wholly within one county, the County Chair shall appoint a subcommittee which shall act as the vacancy committee and the process of such committee be facilitated by the County Chair and State Chair. In such case, the names of the three (3) nominated candidates shall be certified by the County Chair, County Secretary, and State Chair.
BYLAWS OF REPUBLICAN STATE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF WEST VIRGINIA, Section 4(d)(a)(v).
Understand that the state code does not get involved in the logistics of how the applicable district committee members, who are elected by the voters of their districts, vote – just that they get to choose three candidates for the Governor’s consideration. It’s the County Party that conducts the district committee member meeting – not the State Party. This is consistent with how it was always done in the past for these single-county districts. Although the State Party changed their bylaws at some point to give themselves involvement in local decisions, and to require their own signature and involvement in the internal process, state law was not changed.
The Wayne County Chair, Jeff Maynard, sent a copy of the list of candidates to both the Governor and to the Acting Chair of the State Party. This was after the four person delegate district committee deliberated and voted on the three candidates to send to the Governor. But the Governor didn’t choose. After the statutory five day period expired for the Governor to make a choice from the candidates, the County Chair was contacted by the Governor’s office, and told that a re-do was necessary, according to the State Party.
As you know by now, this resulted in a different name being added in place of Jay Marcum, with a vote of only two committee members, this time, rather than the original total of four members from Delegate District 19’s first meeting. As we know, that’s the name chosen by the Governor.
If it was just a matter of adding the State Party’s Acting Chair signature, he could have done so at any time. If the State Party wanted to formally deliver the list of three candidates in a separate letter, with their signature and with what they believed was appropriate letterhead, they could have done so at any time within the statutory period. Instead, they waited until five days expired from the Governor receiving the first list, and they scrapped the entire thing and started over – ultimately culminating in the addition of only one name, who was chosen by the Governor.
It’s apparent to anyone watching that the problem for the Governor and the State Party was not a procedural one – but rather a substantive one: they didn’t want to choose any of the three candidates. They wanted someone entirely different. Whether they had the ultimate choice in mind, or whether they decided that later, is probably known only to them. And also irrelevant to state law.
As reported by the West Virginia Record, in 2018, when the Governor approved from a list of three candidates from the Wood County Party to replace the vacancy following the death of Del. Deem, the Governor made a choice off that list, submitted without any signature or involvement of the State Party. The Governor was photographed by the media, smiling with his choice of appointment from the County Party’s list. However, in this case, with Wayne County, the Governor refused to make a choice until Wayne County’s list was submitted by the State Party with a different name, which he would ultimately pick:
“This list was sent in by the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, following the death of Delegate Frank Deem, who had passed away on October 10, 2018. The news media reported the fact that the county chose the list of three qualified replacements from which the Governor would be choosing. There was no mention of the state party, or the state chair.”
Bryan questions why the governor didn’t ask for a letter that included the state party in the 2018 Wood County situation.
“He made a choice and he seemed happy with it,” Bryan wrote. “I guess he liked one of the options in Wood County’s list, as opposed to Wayne County’s list. What does Wayne County know? They’re probably a bunch of hayseeds.”
Another thing that is concerning about the Attorney General’s response on behalf of the Governor, is that they argue that the first letter from Wayne County was “unsigned.” It actually wasn’t. It was signed by the Wayne County Chair. I wonder why the Governor didn’t show the AG the actual letter he received? Did the Governor’s Office never show the Attorney General the first letter?
Update 2/1/21 6:51 p.m.: the State GOP’s Response to the petition as an Intervenor:
The Governor’s office and the WV Attorney General’s Office claims that the State Republican Party Executive Committee had to be involved in the selection process for the candidates submitted to the Governor for the vacancy created by the resignation of Derrick Evans. They told the Wayne County Republican Party Chair that he did it wrong; that they had to re-do the process and re-submit the candidates, which culminated in a new name being added to the list of three choices. As you know, if you’ve watched West Virginia media this week, the Governor chose the new candidate added to the second list.
Was there really a problem with the first letter submitted to the Governor? Here is the letter sent to the Governor from the Wayne County Chair, which was alleged to have mistakenly left out the State party:
This first letter was marked as received by the Governor’s office on January 14, 2021. I wonder why the Governor couldn’t make a choice from this list? Take a look at another letter submitted to him in the past from a county party chair. The Governor chose from this list, submitted to him from Wood County, back in October of 2018. It looks pretty similar:
This list was sent in by the Wood County Republican Executive Committee, following the death of Delegate Frank Deem, who had passed away on October 10, 2018. The news media reported the fact that the COUNTY chose the list of 3 qualified replacements from which the Governor would be choosing. There was no mention of the state party, or the state chair.
Did the Governor send this 2018 list back for alterations, revisions, or additions? No. He made a choice and he seemed happy with it. I guess he liked one of the options in Wood County’s list, as opposed to Wayne County’s list. What does Wayne County know? They’re probably a bunch of hayseeds…..
The Governor’s office said that the State Republican Party executive committee was responsible for directing the process of choosing the candidates (even though they apparently weren’t involved in the 2018 appointment). This was according to the party’s Acting Chair, Roman Stauffer – a lobbyist and former campaign manager for Governor Justice (just several months ago).
Look at what I found, however….. Mr. Stauffer was, at one time, the chair of the Mercer County Republican Executive Committee. During his time serving in that capacity, guess what happened? A vacancy opened up in his county and he was required to come up with three qualified candidates for the Governor to choose a replacement. It looks like Mr. Stauffer followed the exact same process that ended up being wrong now in 2021:
In fact, he appears to have handled the vacancy in the exact same way as Wayne County did with Derrick Evans’ seat. The only difference being: politics.
Update: the Governor’s Chief of Staff and General Counsel was the radio today lying about the conversation he had with me, and also making other false statements. Apparently he struggles wit the truth:
Here is the petition for Writ of Mandamus we filed this morning with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, asking them to force the West Virginia Governor to follow West Virginia law in choosing between the three qualified candidates presented to him by the Wayne County Republican Executive Committee to fill the vacancy in the legislature left by the resignation of Del. Derrick Evans:
Basically, the State Republican party has usurped the powers and authority of the Wayne County Republican voters, by attempting to take away their authority to choose a list of three qualified candidates to present to the Governor to fill the empty seat in the House of Delegates following the January 9 resignation of Del. Derrick Evans.
The Governor was presented with a list of three qualified candidates on January 14. He had five days to choose from the list. Instead the new Acting Chair of the West Virginia Republican Executive Committee took over the process, and created a new list – this time removing one of the three names and inserting a new name. This disenfranchises the Republican voters of the 19th Delegate District in Wayne County. The law is clear however, and places this power solely on the Wayne County Republican committee members – all duly elected by voters in their precinct.
Why is this important? Wayne County hasn’t had a Republican delegate in 100 years. Now that they’ve got one, the Governor is seeking to replace the choices of the voters with his own guy – who is an unvetted, unknown entity, since he didn’t run in the November campaign. Even more importantly, West Virginia law is clear and unambiguous that the local party (and this applies to all parties) gets to make the decision on the list of three to present to the Governor. This was put in place for a reason. To allow it to be thrown to the wayside is to allow a transfer of power from the people at the local level to some smoke-filled back room full of politicians and politicos.
The first of my two clients in the federal civil rights lawsuit filed yesterday against the superintendent of Jefferson County Schools had her disciplinary hearing today, where the “evidence” was presented of her alleged involvement in the violence at the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday. Apparently the only evidence presented was a conspicuously-absent anonymous “report.” According to the attorney at the scene, Bondy Gibson, the superintendent who leveled the accusations, refused to provide a copy of the allegations, the name of the person making the allegation, or any of the social media posts the individual referenced.
Apparently, what actually happened, is that the Board office reviewed Pam McDonald’s social media page and came to the same conclusion that all have, which is that Pam did nothing wrong and broke no laws. Unfortunately, however, the damage has already been done, and our lawsuit will continue. For instance, here’s a screenshot of a TV news story from this morning about my two clients:
Here’s another disgusting media report from WVDM, which was the direct recipient of the leak from the Jefferson County Schools smearing my clients. It announced that my clients “participated in riots in Washington D.C.” Can you imagine, your friendly school bus drivers may have rioted through the Capitol?
In case anyone misunderstood, in the WDVM article above, this was the exact quote:
The statement details that Superintendent Bondy Shay Gibson was made aware on Friday of the staff members’ participation that left the Capitol Building in shambles.
It turns out that no such evidence exists, apparently. But what about the smear letter the superintendent wrote yesterday which was provided to WV Metro News, where she said this:
On Friday, January 8, 2021, I received such a report that two employees had posted threatening and inflammatory posts on their Facebook pages, had been present at the Electoral protest march on Wednesday that erupted in violence, and had violated our leave policy.
Wait, first . . . about the leave policy…. how would one go about reporting whether one of your employees violated your leave policy? Do random people have access to your employee personnel files? Or was this “person” who made the report “a friend” of yours. Sort of like the “friend” prefaced in embarrassing Dear Abby letters? Does this friend happen an office in the school administration building with a sign on the door saying something like, “Superintendent?”
Secondly, about the “threatening and inflammatory posts” my clients supposedly made….. Where are they? I’m sure they were just misplaced….. They must exist, right?
If the goal was to drag these ladies through the mud, merely for their political affiliation and viewpoints, I guess it was a job well-done. They received all sorts of well-wishes from the tolerant and compassionate commenters among us. If only someone saved some sort of record of the ugly comments which were directed at my two innocent clients in the comments section of these defamatory pieces….. That would be a great way, not only to document the ugliness of the situation, but also to hold accountable the nasty individuals behind the keyboards who so recklessly and maliciously love to destroy the lives of their fellow human beings, based only on political disagreement.
It would be a shame if some of them ended up getting sued and held accountable for their online bullying….. Just a thought.
You may have seen in the national news, and on social media, that the Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools, in Jefferson County, West Virginia, decided to come after school employees who attended the Trump Rally on January 6, 2020. At least two employees, both long-time school bus drivers, who attended the rally, and who never entered any prohibited areas near the Capitol, never witnessed violence, never participated in violence, destruction of property, trespassing, etc., were suspended on January 8, 2020, and remain suspended as of this time.
This afternoon we filed a federal Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the Superintendent, individually, for money damages. Here’s the filing:
This is a blatant attack on the core of the First Amendment: the right to assemble and protest in a traditional forum of public speech, such as the U.S. Capitol. These clients did not pass into any prohibited area that day. They committed no crime while in Washington D.C. They’re exercise of free speech had absolutely nothing to do with their employment as school bus drivers for Jefferson County Schools. They just so happened to have a political activist superintendent.
Yesterday afternoon, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals clerk’s office released the Formal Statement of Charges against Raleigh County, West Virginia Family Court Judge Louise E. Goldston – a 26 year Family Court judge. This is the judge caught on video searching the home of my client, Matt Gibson – threatening him with arrest if he didn’t allow her in. Here’s the post with the original video, as well as the update video, if you haven’t seen it. The charges state that on March 11, 2020, investigators opened a complaint, and that a subsequently second complaint was filed by my client, Matt Gibson.
For reference, I originally uploaded the video of the judge searching Matt’s property on March 10 – the day before the inception of the opening of the investigation. The video quickly went viral, and by the next day an investigation had essentially opened itself. In other words, the power of Youtube is great. In one day, it found its way into the eyeballs of the Judicial Investigation Commission, the only folks with the power to lodge judicial disciplinary charges against judges in West Virginia.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia established the Judicial Investigation Commission to determine whether probable cause exists to formally charge a judge with a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct, to govern the ethical conduct of judges and to determine if a judge, because of advancing years and attendant physical and mental incapacity, should not continue to serve.
If you want to report what you believe is judicial misconduct, or a civil rights violations committed by a judge, anyone can file a complaint with the JIC. Here’s the complaint form.
Any person may file an ethics complaint against a judge. However, a complaint that is filed more than two (2) years after the complainant knew, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence should have known, of the existence of a violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct may be dismissed for exceeding the statute of limitations.
Then, even though covid hit, the investigation apparently proceeded, and 6 months later the charges dropped (which was yesterday, 10/2/20). I just happened to be traveling when the charges came out, so it wasn’t really until this morning that I was able to digest them.The Formal Statement of Charges alleges that:
FAMILY COURT JUDGE GOLDSTON violated Rule 1.1 (compliance with the law), Rule 1.2 (confidence in the judiciary), Rule 1.3 (avoiding abuse of prestige of office), Rule 2.2 (impartiality and fairness), Rule 2.4(B) (external influences), Rule 2.5 (competence, diligence and cooperation) and Rule 3.1(A), (B), (D) (extrajudicial activities in general) of the Code of Judicial Conduct….
In other words, the JIC concluded that the judge failed to comply with the law, committed actions which undermines confidence in the judiciary,abused the prestige of her office, was impartial and unfair, allowed external influences on her actions, was incompetent, un-diligent (is that a word?) and uncooperative, and engaged in extrajudicial activities. According to the charges, these home “visits” (searches) have been going on “over the past twenty years.”
Over the past twenty years as a Family Court Judge, Respondent has been engaging in the practice of visiting homes of litigants appearing in front of her. Respondent went to the litigants’ homes to either determine if certain disputed marital property was present and/or to supervise the transfer of disputed property. Respondent admitted to conducting these home visits in her capacity as a Family Court Judge on eleven separate occasions in different cases.
In every instance except Mr. Gibson’s case, all of Respondent’s home visits were prompted by a motion by a litigant’s attorney and not objected to by the opposing party and will full knowledge of the purpose therein. Most of the Respondent’s home visits occurred during a court hearing in the case. A party’s attorney would move the Court to leave directly from the bench and accompany the parties to the home. After granting the motion, Respondent would meet the parties at the home.
The JIC interviewed the judge and asked her what authority she had to engage in this practice:
On July 22, 2020, Judicial Disciplinary Counsel took Respondent’s sworn statement. Respondent admitted that she failed to inform Mr. Gibson of the purpose of the home visit while the parties were in the courtroom and that she did not give him any opportunity to object thereto until everyone was at his house.
Respondent opined that she believed it was proper to visit litigants’ homes. Respondent likened the practice to a jury view or similar continuation of the court proceeding and stated that as a finder of fact it was necessary to determine whether a party could be held in contempt for not turning over personal property as previously ordered by the Court.
When asked, Respondent could provide no statute, rule or case that gave her the authority to conduct home visits. Respondent also acknowledged that there was nothing in the contempt powers that gave her the authority to conduct a home visit. Respondent confessed that she never held anyone in contempt prior to going to the home and that she failed to enter any order subsequent to the visit reflecting what had happened at the residence, whether any items had been secured and/or whether or not a party was in contempt.
I was absolutely correct when I first reviewed the video. There was no legal basis upon which a judge could search a home as was portrayed in the video. The fact that this judge had been doing it for the past 20 years, was not itself justification. Instead, this sobering fact proves that many former Family Court litigants are absolutely correct when they rant about corruption and unlawfulness. Over the past 20 years, at least 10 other victims have been subjected to this in this judge’s “courtroom,” subjected to unlawful “home visits” upon the motion of an attorney, and without objection from any other attorney.
I wonder how many of these visits involved this one particular attorney involved in this video? After all, it was this attorney who left a voice message for Mr. Gibson the night before the search, offering $5,000 in exchange for foregoing what would essentially be a Family Court anal probing:
This whole thing reeks to me, and sounds a lot like a “pay to play” style judicial experience. Had he paid 5 grand, he could have avoided being lucky number 11? Time will tell, hopefully. Roots run deep in a 20 year period inside one particular court. Perhaps this had something to do with a local Family Court attorney going on TV following my initial TV appearance with my client, to say that I was wrong, and that “home visits” were a perfectly legal Family Court practice. Yeah, okay…..
BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – UPDATE: On Thursday, we ran a story about a Raleigh County man involved in a contempt case after a finalized divorce whose recording of a family court judge went viral. Matt Gibson claimed the search of his home was against his 4th Amendment rights. Because the judge and the opposing attorney cannot comment on ongoing litigation, local family attorney [let’s call him JOHN DOE] is speaking out saying Judge Louise Goldston was doing her job and doing it legally.
“What I think is most important to know about this is when you see a video on YouTube, when you see a Terry search, when you see something and immediately it doesn’t match what we’ve always seen on television that doesn’t make it wrong,” he said. “Because they didn’t do it that way on Law and Order doesn’t mean that a judge that has decades of experience is breaking the law.”
It looks like I was right, and he was wrong. So, he said the judge wasn’t allowed to respond, so he was responding on her behalf? Why is that, I wonder? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Is he saying that she asked him to respond and defend her publicly? Another good point that the JIC makes in the statement of charges, is that if the judge, and her local family court lawyers, are going to characterize her actions as a lawful component of a judicial proceeding, then they have some issues to consider:
Respondent admitted that she never had any clear or written procedures for conducting a home visit, including but not limited to, when the proceeding should be utilized and how the process should take place. She also acknowledged that she never took a court reporter to the scene.
Upon reflection, Respondent agreed that the practice could make her a potential witness to a future proceeding which could then result in her disqualification. Respondent further agreed that family court judges run the risk of disqualification if he/she were to become a witness in a subsequent proceeding pertaining thereto.
Respondent also agreed that the burden of proof in a contempt proceeding rests not with the Family Court Judge but with the moving party. She agreed that it is the moving party’s responsibility to provide evidence in support of his/her contention that the other side has failed to produce the items in question. Respondent admitted to improperly putting herself into the role of litigant.
Like I said during the TV interview, the reason I’ve never heard people complain about having their homes searched by judges before, is because that’s not what judge do – judges don’t search homes. This judge was acting in the role of a litigant. So it was basically like Trump debating both Biden and Chris Wallace in the first presidential debate. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. The opposing attorney is supposed to submit evidence and prove his case. Here you had a judge doing both of these things, and then engaging in an unlawful search of one party’s home, on behalf of the other party. Why? That’s yet another rhetorical question of course. If the other 10 victims were represented by lawyers, why didn’t they object?
And then there’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room: the Sheriff’s Department assisting the judge in these actions. On how many of these 10 other searches were they present? The statement of charges also notes that the bailiff (a sheriff’s deputy) forced Mr. Gibson to stop his recording, and that he himself started to record what happened inside the home:
Upon Respondent’s arrival at Mr. Gibson’s property, Mr. Gibson had a bystander video record the initial interactions outside the house between Respondent and the parties. Mr. Gibson also secretly recorded several minutes of audio of the initial interaction on his cell phone.
When the video and audio recording were discovered by Respondent, she ordered both recordings stopped. However, once inside the house, Respondent’s bailiff used his phone to record both video and audio of the separation of marital assets.
Where is this video, and why hasn’t it been produced? I heard through the grapevine, that following my initial uploading of the Youtube video, that the Sheriff of that county sent around a memo to the effect of, “no more going anywhere with a judge….” Of course, the JIC doesn’t investigate law enforcement, nor discipline them. You might find this shocking, but there is no state agency or commission which investigates law enforcement officers in the way that judges, and even lawyers, are investigated (there’s a pending disciplinary complaint against the lawyer who was involved here as well).
The only consistent investigator of law enforcement misconduct in West Virginia is me, sadly. Those who were involved in the search of my client’s house will be explaining their actions. I can’t put people in jail, nor discipline them, so we’ve pretty much come full circle. I have to demand money damages for my client, and they’ll have the opportunity to avoid what’s coming their way. It ain’t pretty, but that’s the relief available. Unless someone wants to deputize me as a special federal prosecutor or something…..
UPDATE, and Part 2, to one of the craziest search and seizure cases I’ve ever seen, or personally been involved with: The West Virginia Family Court judge who’s searched the home of a federal law enforcement officer, looking for his ex-wife’s DVDs and other stuff, a year and a half after they divorced….. and got caught by YouTube.
Another UPDATE 10/2/20: The judge has been charged. The Statement of Charges was just released this afternoon:
There was a good article from the Mises Institute, The Evidence Keeps Piling up: Lockdowns Don’t Work, by Ryan McMaken. Here in West Virginia, our it seems that it was our Governor’s proudest life achievement so far, that he “shut down” the state, and then got to create an entire new form of government, which he titled, “The Comeback.” At least while mommy and daddy legislature is still in hiding….. As McMaken noted:
I’ve been saying, that since West Virginia’s greatest cause of death – one of the worst in the country – is heart disease. Yet our morbidly obese governor obviously doesn’t appreciate that fact. Our usual number of deaths due to heart disease floats just under 5,000. I wonder what it’s going to be this year? We’ll see, but it’s going to be high. This has been the year of the politician and the bureaucrat protecting themselves against the peasants. As McMaken describes, this was planned way in advance, during the Bush Administration, but at the time they viewed the concept of social distancing as “impractical, unnecessary and politically infeasible.” Now we have things like this occurring in a Presidential election:
One of the reasons the Bush bureaucrats decided a lockdown was infeasible is because lockdowns don’t work:
There is more than one reason, but one major reason is that lockdowns have never been shown to be particularly effective. And this lack of success in containment must also be weighed with the very real costs of forced isolation.
There are no historical observations or scientific studies that support the confinement by quarantine of groups of possibly infected people for extended periods in order to slow the spread of influenza. A World Health Organization (WHO) Writing Group, after reviewing the literature and considering contemporary international experience, concluded that “forced isolation and quarantine are ineffective and impractical.” Despite this recommendation by experts, mandatory large-scale quarantine continues to be considered as an option by some authorities and government officials.
The interest in quarantine reflects the views and conditions prevalent more than 50 years ago, when much less was known about the epidemiology of infectious diseases and when there was far less international and domestic travel in a less densely populated world. It is difficult to identify circumstances in the past half-century when large-scale quarantine has been effectively used in the control of any disease. The negative consequences of large-scale quarantine are so extreme (forced confinement of sick people with the well; complete restriction of movement of large populations; difficulty in getting critical supplies, medicines, and food to people inside the quarantine zone) that this mitigation measure should be eliminated from serious consideration.
But despite the 2006 conclusion, as the paper noted, politicians and bureaucrats don’t necessarily act in the best interests of people, or the nation, but rather in their own personal best interests. They will choose the fork in the road that increases their power – even if it decreases the freedom of the citizenry. That’s the clear explanation surrounding the West Virginia Governor. Clearly he’s adept at acting in his own best interests. He doesn’t pay his taxes. He doesn’t pay his bills. He obtained 24 MILLION DOLLARS IN PPP MONEY for his companies, and so on. Are we to believe that he took control over an entire state government just because he loves us, and he can’t bear to see us suffer? Where was his empathy when he was stiffing regular people and small businesses on his bills? When he said, here in West Virginia, “we’re all in this thing together,” he didn’t mention anything about the fact that the had lawyers and accountants behind the scenes getting him 24 million bucks while the rest of us peasants suffer, did he?
It’s about a power grab – not about saving lives. The evidence shows that lockdowns don’t work. They didn’t work:
Measuring from the start of the year to each state’s point of maximum lockdown—which range from April 5 to April 18—it turns out that lockdowns correlated with a greater spread of the virus. States with longer, stricter lockdowns also had larger Covid outbreaks. The five places with the harshest lockdowns—the District of Columbia, New York, Michigan, New Jersey and Massachusetts—had the heaviest caseloads.
Donald Luskin, The Wall Street Journal
There are other studies, as the Misis Institute listed:
A July study published by The Lancet concluded: “The authors identified a negative association between the number of days to any lockdown and the total reported cases per million, where a longer time prior to implementation of any lockdown was associated with a lower number of detected cases per million.”
In April, T.J. Rogers looked at “a simple one-variable correlation of deaths per million and days to shutdown” and found that “The correlation coefficient was 5.5%—so low that the engineers I used to employ would have summarized it as “no correlation” and moved on to find the real cause of the problem. (The trendline sloped downward—states that delayed more tended to have lower death rates—but that’s also a meaningless result due to the low correlation coefficient.)”
In May, Elaine He at Bloomberg showed “there’s little correlation between the severity of a nation’s restrictions and whether it managed to curb excess fatalities.”
In an August 1 study, also published by The Lancet, the authors concluded, “Rapid border closures, full lockdowns, and wide-spread testing were not associated with COVID-19 mortality per million people.”
The evidence shows that there was no stopping the activity of the virus, where it was already present. Not even the incredibly-obnoxious virtue-signaling step of redoing your social media profile picture with you wearing a mask, had any positive effect on the pandemic. It was nothing more than political speech. Political speech which politicized a virus. The evidence shows nothing governments did, which had any effect on the virus where it was already present:
In a paper published with the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), authors Andew Atkeson et al.found that covid-19 deaths followed a similar pattern “virtually everywhere in the world” and that “Failing to account for this familiar pattern risks overstating the importance of policy mandated NPIs (non pharmaceutical intervention) for shaping the progression of this deadly pandemic.”
So does this weak correlation between lockdowns and effect on COVID justify the tyrannical actions of governors across the United States, and most especially here in West Virginia?
Extraordinary measures require extraordinary evidence. And the burden of proof is on those who seek to use the coercive power of the state to force people into their homes, cripple the economy, and abolish countless basic freedoms for the duration. Have the advocates for lockdowns made their case? It’s hard to see how they have. For one, advocates for lockdowns need to present obvious and overwhelming evidence that lockdowns bring big benefits far in excess of the no-lockdown approach. They have not done so. Moreover, they have not shown that a lack of lockdowns is anywhere near as dangerous as they have claimed in the name of pushing lockdowns to begin with. We can already see what the no-lockdown scenario looks like. It looks like Sweden, and that’s a better outcome than many prolockdown regimes can claim. Governments are nonetheless likely to continue claiming their lockdowns worked. In ancient days, a witch doctor might perform a rain dance on Tuesday and claim credit when it rained on Wednesday. Lockdowns are increasingly looking like the modern equivalent of a rain dance.
That’s what Governor Justice is doing. He’s doing a rain dance for the public. Some thank him for it. Some hate him for it. And all suffer for it. Well, except the (executive branch) politicians and bureaucrats…..