The “Killing Power” of an AR-15: an Update on Walker v. Putnam County

We received the brief from the lawyers for Putnam County, West Virginia in the Michael Walker case, the AR-15 open carry case currently pending at the Fourth Circuit. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the video of the interaction at issue in the case:

The primary issue in dispute is whether a police officer can stop, detain and run a criminal background check, on an individual safely and lawfully openly-carrying an AR-15 style rifle. Putnam County’s law enforcement is arguing essentially that the AR-15 is a weapon of mass murder and warfare, and that it’s inherently suspicious of criminal conduct. Here are a few nuggets from their brief:

Finally, Mr. Walker’s argument that AR-15 style rifles may not be treated differently than less deadly firearms for reasonable suspicion purposes holds no basis in law, and is contrary to the public safety and intuitive sense. Different firearms have different utilities, purposes, and common uses, and their presence therefore draws different inferences. An AR-15 has more killing power, and is more commonly used in indiscriminate public gun violence than many more commonplace sporting or self-defense weapons, and therefore raises a greater concern for public safety in context. The fact that the AR-15 is so notoriously popular among the deadliest mass shooters also raises reasonable concerns over a copycat mass shooting. Objects need not be illegal for their presence, in appropriate context, to contribute to reasonable suspicion, and there is no reason for bearers of AR-15 style rifles to receive special protection.

“Killing Power?” Is that a scientific unit of measurement. If shotguns are okay, or a bolt-action hunting rifle is okay, then I wonder if they’re aware that an AR-15 uses a .223 caliber diameter round, which is unlawful to use for hunting in some states because it’s too small of a caliber, and therefore not deadly enough for game such as deer (as compared to the good ‘ole .308 or .270 Winchester calibers, etc., etc.).

This is a suburban residential and commercial area which is unsuitable for hunting or target shooting, and Mr. Walker was not wearing any items of blaze orange, or anything else which would signal to an observer that his intention was hunting. (See id.). Furthermore, this interaction occurred in February, when almost no commonly hunted animals, with the exception of noxious pests, are in season. Nor is an AR- 15 a weapon commonly used for hunting, such as a deer rifle or shotgun, or carried for self-defense, such as the handgun possessed by Mr. Troupe in Black. I

Was I the only one who just saw something happen on the news recently involving an AR-15 openly carried for self-defense, and used in self-defense? I think I recall something like that in the news. I bet this is also news to all their law enforcement officers in their county, and surrounding counties, who have an AR-15 in the police cruisers. Those are for hunting, right? Definitely not self defense. It appears that they just don’t like the AR-15:

The mass shooter’s preference for AR-15’s is because, as former U. S. Marine infantry officer and author of “The Gun,” a history of assault rifles and their effects upon security and war, C. J. Chivers, wrote in a February 28, 2018 New York Times column: When a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, he was carrying an AR-15-style rifle that allowed him to fire upon people in much the same way that many American soldiers and Marines would fire their M16 and M4 rifles in combat. See Chivers, C. J., Larry Buchanan, Denise Lu, and Karen Yourish, With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops, The New York Times (Feb. 28, 2018),

In sum, AR-15 style rifles give the wielder the capability to kill more people in a shorter amount of time than more commonplace styles of firearm, making it an appealing choice for a would-be mass shooter whose goal is exactly that, and a greater danger to public safety than would more commonplace, less-powerful, lower-capacity firearms, such as shotguns or handguns.

How is a .223 caliber rifle “more powerful” than a .308 bolt action hunting rifle? I wonder if they know that the M-60 machine gun is chambered in .308? I wonder if they know that our military has snipers who kill human beings with what are essentially hunting rifles chambered in the same caliber as hunting rifles, such as .308 caliber? They don’t chamber sniper rifles in .223 caliber found in AR-15s, because they are not powerful enough. Complete hogwash……

As discussed in prior sections of this brief, AR-15 style rifles have been featured in substantially all of the deadliest mass shootings in this decade. Mass murderers in Las Vegas and Orlando have killed and wounded over one hundred people in a single event with AR-15. Revolvers and bolt-action deer rifles do not share that infamy. It is therefore reasonable to infer that a person attempting to copycat a mass shooting would likely use the weapon of choice of mass shooters. If officers are concerned about a potential mass shooter, certainly they would justifiably be more concerned by a person carrying an AR-15 than one of the many firearms more commonly used for hunting or self-defense. Different inferences may be reasonably drawn from the presence of different firearms, because different firearms are used for different things: a person viewed at a gun range carrying a shotgun may be presumed to be there to shoot clay pigeons, whereas a person carrying a rifle is almost certainly not.

This is coming from the first county in the State of West Virginia to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” L.O.L. Also, by the way, there was no indication whatsoever that there was any indication or concern that Michael Walker could have been a copycat mass-murderer. That was all made up by lawyers after the lawsuit was filed. The entire incident was filmed. The entire 911 transcript exists. There was nothing that day to concern law enforcement, nor which did concern law enforcement, that Michael was a threat to a school. It was merely harassment for openly carrying a lawful and safely carried AR-15 style rifle.

Next we get to file a Reply Brief, responding to their response. At that point it will be in the hands of the Court. They can hold oral arguments, or rule on their briefs.

Freedom is Scary Ep. 6: Black Rifle Rights and the FBI Lawyer

Also the new 9th Circuit opinion, firearms history and I’ll show you an authentic Model 1866 Winchester Assault Rifle.

Duncan v. Becerra ruling 9th Circuit:

On Friday, a panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed (by a 2-1 vote) a federal district court’s ruling that so-called “large capacity” magazines are protected by the Second Amendment. In the live cast, I discussed the ruling and the great foundation it lays for inclusion and equal treatment of AR-15 style rifles in the context of the 2nd and 4th Amendments. I may be the first lawyer to have cited this language, since it came down the same day I filed the brief in the Walker case:

“That LCMs [large capacity magazines] are commonly used today for lawful purposes ends the inquiry into unusualness. But the record before us goes beyond what is necessary under Heller: Firearms or magazines holding more than ten rounds have been in existence — and owned by American citizens — for centuries. Firearms with greater than ten round capacities existed even before our nation’s founding, and the common use of LCMs for self-defense is apparent in our shared national history.

Semi-automatic and multi-shot firearms were not novel or unforeseen inventions to the Founders, as the first firearm that could fire more than ten rounds without reloading was invented around 1580. Rapid fire guns, like the famous Puckle Gun, were patented as early as 1718 in London. Moreover, British soldiers were issued magazine-fed repeaters as early as 1658. As a predecessor to modern revolvers, the Pepperbox pistol design pre-dates the American Revolution by nearly one hundred years, with common variants carrying five to seven shots at the ready and with several European variants able to shoot 18 or 24 shots before reloading individual cylinders. Similarly, breech-loading, repeating rifles were conceptualized as early as 1791.

After the American Revolution, the record shows that new firearm designs proliferated throughout the states and few restrictions were enacted on firing capacities. The Girandoni air rifle, developed in 1779, had a 22-round capacity and was famously carried on the Lewis and Clark expedition. In 1821, the Jennings multi-shot flintlock rifle could fire 12 shots without reloading. Around the late antebellum period, one variant of the Belgian Mariette Repeating Pepperbox could fire 18 shots without reloading. Pepperbox pistols maintained popularity over smaller- capacity revolvers for decades, despite the latter being of newer vintage. At this time, revolving rifles were also developed like the Hall rifle that held 15 shots.

The advent of repeating, cartridge-fed firearms occurred at the earliest in 1855 with the Volcanic Arms lever-action rifle that contained a 30-round tubular magazine, and at the latest in 1867, when Winchester created its Model 66, which was a full-size lever-action rifle capable of carrying 17 rounds. The carbine variant was able to hold 12 rounds. Repeating rifles could fire 18 rounds in half as many seconds, and over 170,000 were sold domestically. The Model 66 Winchester was succeeded by the Model 73 and Model 92, combined selling over 1.7 million total copies between 1873 and 1941.

The innovation of the self-contained cartridge along with stronger steel alloys also fostered development in handguns, making them smaller and increasing their capacities. Various revolver designs from France and Germany enabled up to 20 shots to be fired without reloading. A chain-fed variant, the French Guycot, allowed pistols to carry up to 32 shots and a rifle up to 100 shots. One American manufacturer experimented with a horizontally sliding “row of chambers” (an early stacked magazine) through a common frame, dubbed the Jarre “harmonica” pistol, holding ten rounds and patented in 1862. In 1896, Mauser developed what might be the first semi-automatic, recoil-operated pistol — the “Broomhandle” — with a detachable 20-round magazine. Luger’s semiautomatic pistol hit the market in 1899 and came with seven or eight round magazines, although a 32- round drum magazine was widely available.

In 1935, Browning developed the 13-round Hi-Power pistol which quickly achieved mass-market success. Since then, new semi-automatic pistol designs have replaced the revolver as the common, quintessential, self-defense weapon. Many of these pistol models have increased magazine capacities as a result of double-stacked magazines. One of the most popular handguns in America today is the Glock 17, which comes standard with a magazine able to hold 17 bullets.

Rifle magazine development paralleled that of pistol magazines. In 1927, Auto Ordinance Company released its semi-automatic rifle with a 30-round magazine. A decade and a half later, the M-1 carbine was invented for the “citizen soldier” of WWII. The M-1 remained a common and popular rifle for civilians after the war. In 1963, almost 250,000 M- 1s, capable of holding between 15 and 30 rounds, were sold at steeply discounted prices to law-abiding citizens by the federal government. The ultimate successor to the M-1 was the M-16, with a civilian version dubbed the Armalite Model 15, or AR-15. The AR-15 entered the civilian market in 1963 with a standard 20-round magazine and remains today the “most popular rifle in American history.” The AR- 15 was central to a 1994 Supreme Court case in which the Court noted that semiautomatic rifles capable of firing “only one shot with each pull of the trigger” “traditionally have been widely accepted as lawful possessions.” Staples v. United States, 511 U.S. 600, 602 n.1, 603, 612 (1994). By the early-1970s, the AR-15 had competition from other American rifle models, each sold with manufacturer- standard 20-round or greater magazines. By 1980, comparable European models with similar capacities entered the American market.

The point of our long march through the history of firearms is this: The record shows that firearms capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition have been available in the United States for well over two centuries.7 While the Supreme Court has ruled that arms need not have been common during the founding era to receive protection under the Second Amendment, the historical prevalence of firearms capable of holding more than ten bullets underscores the heritage of LCMs in our country’s history. See Heller, 554 U.S. at 582.”

Read the order here:

https://www.firearmspolicy.org/9th-circuit-holds-large-capacity-firearm-magazines-protected-2nd-amendment

Walker Case – the AR-15 Open Carry Case – Opening Brief is filed

Well, here’s our opening brief in the Walker v. Putnam County, et al. open carry case. This went from a relatively simple search and seizure Section 1983 civil lawsuit, to a battle over gun rights and whether or not the AR-15 is entitled to equal treatment under the law at the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. This is the case where my client was stopped, harassed, and called a co@ksucker, twice, for trying to mind his own business and go coyote hunting. Just one nugget out of the video:

It is your fault! Because you co$ksuckers . . . start it.  I ask you for ID – when a law enforcement officer asks you for ID, it’s not “I don’t have to provide it,” it’s “here it is, sir,” because, by law, you fucking got to give it, when you are asked for it.  And if you think you don’t, [then] press the issue, we’ll find out; I’ll hook you, book you, jamb you in the jail; and then you can’t answer to a God damned judge.

At the urging of Putnam County (W. Va.), the Court ruled against us at the trial court level, and well, ruled against AR-15 style rifles as well:

Here, Walker’s possession of an AR-15-style rifle under these circumstances was unusual and alarming. Whereas possessing an AR-15 at a shooting range or on one’s own property would not raise an eyebrow, there was no obvious reason for the rifle’s possession here. Unlike a holstered handgun, like that at issue in U.S. v. Black, AR-15s are not commonly carried for self-defense. 707 F.3d at 535. Nor are they traditionally used for hunting. 

Seeing Walker at 6:00 p.m. in February in an urban area would further diminish an inference that Walker possessed the rifle for hunting because the sun would soon set and hunting after dark is generally prohibited. The rifle being uncased, ready to fire at a moment’s notice, and Walker’s camouflage pants also contributed to an unusual presentation of the firearm. 

(Read the ruling itself here: https://thecivilrightslawyer.com/2020/03/02/federal-court-rules-against-us-in-the-walker-case-let-the-appeal-begin/)

Why might you care about these issues? If you live in the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit (WV, VA, MD, NC, SC), and in particular one of the open carry states therein (WV, VA, and NC) then the outcome of this case will affect your rights one way or the other. We’ve had a couple of really bad gun rights decisions handed down in the Fourth Circuit in 2017 (US v. Robinson and the Kolbe case). If we lose this one, our last vestige of gun freedoms, contained in the holding of US v. Black (2013) will be overturned.

Since AR-15 style rifles are completely legal to possess in West Virginia, including in the context of open carry, we had to appeal, and we had to cover a lot of ground in our opening brief. Mind you, there’s a page limit, and I spent hours deleting great arguments I had already written, as well as great quotes I wanted to include, in order to bring it under the page limit:

Here’s a live video I did on the case last night. The entire incident was recorded, and is shown/discussed at around the 12:00 mark. The original video’s still up on our channel as well.

Here’s the original video, if you haven’t seen it already:

BJJ and Police Use of Force – Freedom is Scary Livecast No. 3

In “Freedom is Scary” LIVE No. 3, I discuss Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (“BJJ”) with former law enforcement officer and BJJ academy owner/coach, Adam Martin.

Why? Because ever since the death of George Floyd, “chokehold” has been the word of the day. Trump brought them up in his June 16, 2020 Executive Order, and now many states have issued orders, or enacted legislation, banning the use of so-called “chokeholds” by police officers.

The problem is, that the term doesn’t mean what they think it means, and in doing so, they’re changing the rules of self defense for police officers. As with other civil rights, if you allow it to be done to one group of people, it always grows like a virus to include groups of people who were not intended to be affected. In this video we discuss what that means.

On June 16, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) issued an executive order, titled Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, addressing changes to policing on June 16, 2020.The order directed the U.S. Department of Justice to create an independent credentialing body that would develop a set of criteria for state and local law enforcement agencies to meet in order to be awarded federal grants. The order stated that the criteria should address excessive use of force, include de-escalation training, and ban the use of chokeholds, except when the use of deadly force is lawful.

The chokehold provisions of Trump’s E.O.:

(i)   the State or local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policies adhere to all applicable Federal, State, and local laws; and

(ii)  the State or local law enforcement agency’s use-of-force policies prohibit the use of chokeholds — a physical maneuver that restricts an individual’s ability to breathe for the purposes of incapacitation — except in those situations where the use of deadly force is allowed by law.

Just what in the hell does that mean anyways…..

Many states have followed suit, banning “chokeholds.” Most notably, I’ll point out that Connecticut actually got the terminology correct, successfully banning pretty much every good submission you’ll see on the UFC.

On July 31, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont (D-Conn.) signed a policing policy bill into law. Under HB 6004, the following was enacted, according to the governor’s office:

On June 15, 2020, Lamont signed an executive order to change law enforcement strategies. The order banned “the Connecticut State Police from using chokeholds, strangleholds, arm-bar control holds, lateral vascular neck restraints, carotid restraints, chest compressions, or any other tactics that restrict oxygen or blood flow to the head or neck,” according to a press release from the governor’s office.

You’ll have to watch the discussion to see what Adam has to say about this policy, but it has something to do with not being a state trooper in Connecticut…..

Update: Podcast version: https://thejohnbryanpodcast.podbean.com/e/freedom-is-scary-no-3-bjj-training-and-police-use-of-force/

ATV laws in West Virginia and McDowell County, W. Va.

So a few days ago, I represented a guy down in McDowell County, West Virginia, on a misdemeanor charge of driving on a two-lane road in an ATV/UTV/side-by-side. West Virginia law allows you to do this. But apparently there is confusion, or ignorance, in the local sheriff’s department and/or prosecutor’s office. We were forced to have a trial, which resulted in a not guilty verdict. Here’s the actual criminal complaint charging my client with the non-crime of operating an ATV on a two-lane road in West Virginia:

Clearly this police officer was wrong about the law.

W. Va. Code Section 17F-1-1 allows ATVS to:

  1. Operate on any single lane road (most roadways in rural West Virginia).
  2. Operate on a two-lane road for a distance of 10 miles or less, so long as the ATV it is either on the shoulder of the road, or as far to the right on the pavement as possible if there is insufficient shoulder to ride on, and at a speed of 25 mph or less, in order to travel between “a residence or lodging and off-road trails, fields and areas of operation, including stops for food, fuel, supplies and restrooms.” If operated at night, an ATV must be equipped with headlights and taillights, which must be turned on – obviously. Read it for yourself, here: https://www.wvlegislature.gov/WVCODE/Code.cfm?chap=17f&art=1

So, slightly confusing and a few grey areas, but if you’ve been around the Hatfield & McCoy Trails, you know that it’s necessary to use a two-lane road at times to get where you need to go on an ATV. And in other counties, where there are no Hatfield & McCoy Trails, we still need to go down two-lanes at times to get from one place we’re allowed to ride, to another (whether farms/fields/one-lanes/gas stations, etc.)

Me negotiating down a black diamond trail in the Hatfield & McCoy Trail system. Pocahontas Section, I believe.

Unfortunately however, when we arrived to court on this particular case, the prosecutor looked at me in amazement when I told her that the client hadn’t committed a crime, even assuming all the allegations in the criminal complaint are true. She said dismissively that the client could plead guilty and pay the fines. Of course, I said, “no way, Jose.”

So we had a trial. During the trial, the charging police officer testified that no ATVs are ever allowed to be on a two-lane road, and that his supervisor instructed him, in accordance with this, to “clear” ATVs from the roads, because the Hatfield & McCoy system was closed by the Governor due to COVID-19.

But that has nothing to do with the statute. The Governor can’t change the ATV laws by executive order; nor did he attempt to. Accessing the H&M trails isn’t the only reason ATVs are used in West Virginia. The officer cited 17F-1-1 as his legal authority to “clear the roads.” But in reality, the law still says what it says. Therefore, the magistrate judge correctly found my client not guilty.

There had been no allegations of unsafe or improper operation of the ATV – just that he was on a double yellow line. The officer testified that he didn’t know where the client was coming from – nor where he was going. He had no evidence that my client had been illegally operating on the H&M trail system. The complaint itself corroborates this. It didn’t mention anything other than the fact that he caught him on a two-lane.

However, there were facts pertaining to the officer’s conduct. He got angry and took the citation back, after the mayor of the town where this occurred – Northfork – apparently said that ATVs were welcome and allowed in her ATV-friendly town. Muttering the “F word,” the officer left the city hall, confiscated citation in hand. The testimony at trial was that about an hour later, the officer showed up at my client’s residence – the client wasn’t even home at the time – and threw the citation inside the empty, parked ATV in the driveway. That wasn’t the reason for the not guilty verdict, just a bizarre way to re-issue a ticket. But in any event, it was a non-crime, so the verdict was rightly “not guilty.”

Following the trial, I posted on Facebook that my client had been found not guilty, and that the Governor’s tyrannical executive orders had no effect on the state’s ATV laws, and expressed disbelief that the local sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office would hassle ATV riders, when that’s really the only thing the local economy has going for it at this point. Did I bash a county by saying this? No, facts are facts. I said nothing about the county, unless you’re referring to the sheriff’s department and the prosecutor’s office prosecuting an innocent man for a non-crime.

Let’s look at the facts though…..

To argue that McDowell County doesn’t have a crisis economy is to stick your head in the sand. Pointing this out is not bashing, nor exploiting, the county. Anyone who makes such an accusation, is either ignorant, or a willing propagandist. Hell, in 1963 – I’ll repeat: 1963 – President John F. Kennedy said:

I don’t think any American can be satisfied to find in McDowell County, West Virginia, 20 or 25 percent of the people of that county out of work, not for 6 weeks or 12 weeks, but for a year, 2, 3, or 4 years.

The situation has only worsened there. McDowell County has been classified as a “food desert” by the USDA. In 2017, there were two full-sized grocery stores serving the county’s 535 square miles. The only Walmart super center in the county closed in 2016 Coyne, Caity (April 7, 2018). “In McDowell County ‘food desert,’ concerns about the future”Charleston Gazette-Mail. Retrieved January 19, 2020. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen another closed Walmart anywhere in the country.

Vacant Walmart building in Kimble, W.Va.
CREDIT ROXY TODD/ WVPB; https://www.wvpublic.org/post/what-happens-when-walmart-closes-one-coal-community#stream/0

State officials estimate that there are between 5,000 to 8,000 abandoned homes and buildings in McDowell County alone that need to come down. Legislation was introduced this year to fund the removal of many of these “blight” areas. See https://www.register-herald.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-removing-blight-swope-s-measure-important-to-west-virginia/article_6d4359cf-8b21-5430-9769-2f874e8fee9b.html They’ve been working on this for years. From a newspaper article from 2015:

WELCH — For years, it has been difficult for McDowell County officials to recognize the obvious fact that deserted and dilapidated structures countywide represent a negative image for visitors to the county.

“U.S. Route 52 is the gateway to our county,” Harold McBride, president of the McDowell County Commission said during a press conference Friday morning at the McDowell County Public Library in Welch. “It looks like a Third World country,” he said and added that most of the dilapidated buildings are owned by people who live outside the state and “think they have something.”

https://www.bdtonline.com/news/officials-and-coal-operators-work-to-remove-blighted-structures/article_e4961188-00f9-11e5-86d4-4b27287a4886.html?mode=jqm

From the Charleston Gazette in 2013:

There were 100,000 people in McDowell County in 1950. Today, there are about 22,000 residents,” Altizer said.From 2000 to 2010, McDowell County’s population dropped by nearly 20 percent, from 27,329 people to 22,064 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.”It is so sad we are losing so much population. Half of our homes are on homestead exemption, which lowers property taxes for people who are over 65 or disabled,” Altizer said during a recent interview in the McDowell County Courthouse.Today, Altizer said, most income to county residents come from coal and natural gas jobs, or from checks retired people receive — Social Security, black lung, the Veterans Administration and United Mine Workers.”The monthly West Virginia Economic Survey prepared by Workforce West Virginia recently reported there were about 6,000 people working in the county, many of them with government jobs or fast-food jobs. We have an older population today. And there are not new jobs here,” Altizer said.”Coal and gas are keeping us going. 

https://www.wvgazettemail.com/business/mcdowell-county-fighting-long-term-decline/article_cb381937-e129-59fd-8d7d-f1fb88dbe6a1.html

Here’s an interesting article, with photos from an actual photographer, rather than the few I snapped with my obsolete iPhone. Take a look for yourself and determine if the few pictures I snapped were somehow misleading about the blight in the county:

https://architecturalafterlife.com/2018/01/12/welcome-to-welch/

From the article:

This decline in work lead to the creation of modern era food stamps. The Chloe and Alderson Muncy family of Paynesville, McDowell County were the first recipients of modern day food stamps in America. Their household included 15 people. The city of Welch, and crowds of reporters watched as Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman delivered $95 of federal food stamps to Mr. and Mrs. Muncy on May 29, 1961. This was an important moment in history, as it was the first issuance of federal food stamps under the Kennedy Administration. This federal assistance program continued to expand for years to come, and is commonly used across the United States today.

https://architecturalafterlife.com/2018/01/12/welcome-to-welch/

Fortunately for the county, in 2018, the state opened two new trail connections in McDowell County. From a May, 2018 newspaper article:

WELCH — Two new ATV trail connections opening today in McDowell County will give visitors direct access to the city of Welch and the town of Kimball, the Hatfield-McCoy Regional Recreation Authority’s executive director said Tuesday.

“As of in the morning (today), we’ll have the town of Kimball and the city of Welch will be connected to the Hatfield-McCoy Trail in the Indian Ridge system,” Executive Director Jeffrey Lusk said. “This will allow riders of the trails to go into those communities to get food and fuel and to stay. These are two new towns that weren’t on the system. Up until today, the only two towns that were connected were Northfork and Keystone….

The new Warrior Trail will connect with Gary and Welch. ATV riders will be able to travel from the town of Bramwell to the town of War starting on Labor Day, he added. More lodging opportunities are needed to help McDowell County’s communities benefit from the increase ATV tourism traffic.

“We’re opening the Warrior Trail System up on Labor Day Weekend,” Lusk said. “We’re in desperate need of places to stay in War, Gary and Welch come Labor Day Weekend.

Tourism traffic continues to grow on the Hatfield-McCoy Trail’s overall system, Lusk stated. Last year, overall permit sales were up by 15.1 percent, and both Mercer and McDowell Counties had the highest growth in sales. 

https://www.bdtonline.com/news/new-trail-links-opening-on-hatfield-mccoy/article_6d82ce36-5e22-11e8-a13b-a3912708cd04.html

Being an ATV rider myself, I know first hand how the community benefits from the ATV economy. Local entrepreneurs now have opportunities to open ATV resorts, restaurants, and other businesses, which cater to ATV riders. ATV riders bring money. These new ATVs are 15-30k vehicles, each, when it comes to the side-by-sides, and not far off from that for the individual four wheelers. Watch them drive in. They’re driving 70k trucks, pulling 10k trailers, in many instances. They’ve invested heavily in the hobby. They spend money, not only on their equipment, but on food, lodging, gas, and so on. And they come from all over. I’ve even seen guys who drove all the way from Mexico to ride these trails.

Riding somewhere down there….

Some of them even invest in local real estate, such as the client I represented in this case, who loved the community so much, he bought his own place. But go on and attack me for daring to “bash” McDowell County…. So let’s continue with some facts, instead of knee-jerk emotion.

What are some of the side effects of the economic problems?

Of 3,142 counties in the U.S. in 2013, McDowell County, West Virginia ranked 3,142 in the life expectancy of both male and female residents. See http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/county_profiles/US/2015/County_Report_McDowell_County_West_Virginia.pdf,; see also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDowell_County,_West_Virginia

 Males in McDowell County lived an average of 63.5 years and females lived an average of 71.5 years compared to the national average for life expectancy of 76.5 for males and 81.2 for females. Moreover, the average life expectancy in McDowell County declined by 3.2 years for males and 4.1 years for females between 1985 and 2013 compared to a national average for the same period of an increased life span of 5.5 years for men and 3.1 years for women…..

Then there’s the drug problem. In 2015, McDowell County had the highest rate of drug-induced deaths of any county in the U.S., with 141 deaths per 100,000 people. The rate for the U.S. as a whole is only 14.7 deaths per 100,000 people. (Same citation).

So back to my original point. There’s 99 problems there, and ATVs ain’t one of them. So why hassle ATV riders when they’re bringing money, jobs and fun into the local economy?

Again, ATVs are allowed on single lane roads in West Virginia, and are also allowed on two-lane roads, to get from one place they’re allowed to operate, to another place they’re allowed to operate, so long as it’s a distance of 10 miles or less, and so long as they operate on the shoulder, or as far as the right as possible, and under the speed of 25 mph. Counties and cities in West Virginia are granted the authority by the legislature to increase ATV freedoms. Other than interstate highways, they can authorize ATVs to use two lanes within their jurisdictions with no restrictions whatsoever. That would be what signage would refer to as being “ATV Friendly.”

That’s the law anyways. Whether or not law enforcement and prosecutors in any particular county care or not…. well that’s a different issue.

Update regarding the new Senate Bill 690:

Senate Bill 690 is now in effect in West Virginia. ATVs, side by sides, UTVs, can now be made “street legal” in West Virginia. They are calling this group of vehicles with confusing names, “Special Purpose Vehicles.”

SPVs can now be turned into “street legal SPVs.” The following requirements must be met:

(1) One or more headlamps;

(2) One or more tail lamps;

(3) One or more brake lamps;

(4) A tail lamp or other lamp constructed and placed to illuminate the registration plate with a white light;

(5) One or more red reflectors on the rear;

(6) Amber electric turn system, one on each side of the front;

(7) Amber or red electric turn signals;

(8) A braking system, other than a parking brake;

(9) A horn or other warning device;

(10) A muffler and, if required by an applicable federal statute or rule, an emission control system;

(11) Rearview mirrors on the right and left side of the driver;

(12) A windshield, unless the operator wears eye protection while operating the vehicle;

(13) A speedometer, illuminated for nighttime operation;

(14) For vehicles designed by the manufacturer for carrying one or more passengers, a seat designed for passengers; and 

(15) Tires that have at least 2/32 inches or greater tire tread.

Senate Bill 690

Golf carts are being excluded:

(uu) “Low-speed vehicle” means a four-wheeled motor vehicle whose attainable speed in one mile on a paved level surface is more than twenty miles per hour but not more than twenty-five miles per hour.

WV Code §17A-1-1(uu)

A “Special Purpose Vehicle” is defined as:

“Special purpose vehicle” includes all-terrain vehicles, utility terrain vehicles, mini-trucks, pneumatic-tired military vehicles, and full-size special purpose-built vehicles, including those self-constructed or built by the original equipment manufacturer and those that have been modified.

There is a 20 mile limit on the travel on a two-lane road. Controlled-access highways are excluded. That would be interstates and four lanes where there are dedicated access points (on ramps, off ramps, and the like).

What is Qualified Immunity and why does it fail at life?

Section 1983 lawsuits allow private citizens to sue individual government officials, including police officers, for violations of federal rights performed under color of law.

If a government officer violates a federally protected civil right, the citizen has the legal right to file a civil lawsuit against the officer. 42 USC 1983, passed in 1871, allows citizens to sue state and local government officials – especially police officers – for damages when their rights are violated. Even if they’ve suffered no monetary damages, if they are successful, they’re entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and expenses. The same sort of lawsuit is available against federal officials pursuant to the U.S. Supreme Court case, Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971). Those are known as “Bivens actions.” But before these lawsuits can be successful, they have to get past the obstacle of the Qualified Immunity defense.

Qualified Immunity is a defense to civil lawsuits alleging the violation of federal rights while acting under color of law. It does not apply as a defense to criminal prosecution.

Qualified Immunity is a civil defense to these lawsuits, provided to government officials by the Supreme Court initially in the case of Pierson v. Ray in 1967, and then again, in its current form, in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, in 1982. It was rearranged yet again in Pearson v. Callahan (2009) giving federal judges more discretion in granting qualified immunity.

Qualified Immunity has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, and especially in recent months. Many commentators have criticized it as an example of the Court creating legislation from the bench, and in so doing having created a significant problem for citizens seeking to hold their government officials accountable for the violations of their civil rights.

As Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt has written, the Supreme Court’s recent qualified immunity decisions have “created such powerful shields for law enforcement that people whose rights are violated, even in egregious ways, often lack any means of enforcing those rights.” Three of the foremost experts on Section 1983 litigation—Karen Blum, Erwin Chemerinsky, and Martin Schwartz—have concluded that recent developments in qualified immunity doctrine leave “not much Hopeless for plaintiffs.” 

Although the concept of qualified immunity was drawn from defenses existing in the common law at the time 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was enacted, the Court has made clear that the contours of qualified immunity’s protections are shaped not by the common law but instead by policy considerations. In particular, the Court seeks to balance “two important interests—the need to hold public officials accountable when they exercise power irresponsibly and the need to shield officials from harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably.” 

The Supreme Court’s original rationale for qualified immunity was to shield officials from financial liability. The Court first announced that law enforcement officials were entitled to a qualified immunity from suits in the 1967 case of Pierson v. Ray. That decision justified qualified immunity as a means of protecting government defendants from financial burdens when acting in good faith in legally murky areas. Qualified immunity was necessary, according to the Court, because “[a] policeman’s lot is not so unhappy that he must choose between being charged with dereliction of duty if he does not arrest when he had probable cause, and being mulcted in damages if he does.”

How Qualified Immunity Fails, by Joanna C. Schwartz, Yale Law Journal, 127:2 (2017).

The reality of Qualified Immunity, through my eyes, which are the eyes of someone who litigates civil rights lawsuits mostly as a plaintiff, is that it’s more of an annoyance in the usual case litigated by an experienced civil rights attorney, but that it’s often a problem in those unique cases where justice really should be served, but isn’t. The big problem, in my opinion, is the use of an objective standard. Common sense tells us that bad faith conduct by law enforcement should be punished. But the subjective bad faith, or malicious intentions, of a defendant police officer, surprisingly may not even be admissible in court. Because it’s usually irrelevant under the standard.

Qualified Immunity is analyzed using an objective standard, rather than subjective.

At its inception in 1967, there was a subjective component to the qualified immunity analysis. From 1967, when qualified immunity was first announced by the Supreme Court, until 1982 when Harlow was decided, a defendant seeking qualified immunity had to show both that his conduct was objectively reasonable and that he had a “good-faith” belief that his conduct was proper. In 1982, the Court in Harlow dropped the second part, the subjective good faith belief requirement, finding that such a requirement was “incompatible” with the policy goals of qualified immunity, which now not only was to protect law enforcement officers from financial liability, but also now to avoid subjecting them to either the costs and burdens of trial, as well as the burdens of broad-reaching discovery.

Qualified Immunity cannot be justified as a means of reducing civil litigation surrounding allegations of police misconduct.

In a recent study discussed in a Yale Law Journal article, out of a study of 1,183 lawsuits against state and local law enforcement defendants, over a period of two years, in five federal district courts, it was found that qualified immunity was only raised as a defense in 37% of the cases, and out of those, only resulted in dismissal in 3.6% of the casesSee How Qualified Immunity Fails, by Joanna C. Schwartz, Yale Law Journal, 127:2 (2017).

I’ll repeat that: out of 1,183 lawsuits against police officers for civil rights violations, Qualified Immunity was raised as a defense by the officers in only 37% of the cases, and out of those, only 3.6% resulted in dismissals.

Another study by Alexander Reinert, looking at Bivens actions (against federal officials), found that grants of qualified immunity led to just 2% of case dismissals over a three year study period. However, the big difference in those cases from regular Section 1983 cases, is that the defense attorneys are Assistant United States Attorneys – members of the civil branch of each federal district’s federal prosecutor’s office. As such, they may take a different route of defense, as a matter of DOJ policy. So they are somewhat different creatures, though both involve issues of Qualified Immunity.

Therefore, according to the numbers, “Qualified Immunity” itself is rarely the formal reason that civil rights lawsuits against law enforcement end. Moreover, there are certain types of cases where qualified immunity cannot be utilized, such as those against the employers of law enforcement officers (Monell Claims). Out of the 1,183 cases studied, 8.4% fell into this category. 

The Yale study also showed that most of the qualified immunity litigation is taking place at the summary judgment stage, or even the trial stage, rather than at the motion to dismiss stage, as the Supreme Court apparently intended. That means that litigation is not being avoided. It is perhaps being increased. 

As Alan Chen has observed, when considering the deficiencies of qualified immunity, “the costs eliminated by resolving the case prior to trial must be compared to the costs of trying the case . . . . [T]he pretrial litigation costs caused by the invoking of the immunity defense may cancel out the trial costs saved by that defense.”

How Qualified Immunity Fails, by Joanna C. Schwartz, Yale Law Journal, 127:2 (2017).

Moreover, Qualified Immunity likely increases the expense, as well as the delays, associated with federal civil rights litigation.

Although qualified immunity terminated only 3.9% of the 979 cases in my dataset in which qualified immunity could be raised, the defense was in fact raised by defendants in more than 37% of these cases—and was sometimes raised multiple times, at the motion to dismiss stage, at summary judgment, and through interlocutory appeals. Each time qualified immunity is raised, it must be researched, briefed, and argued by the parties and decided by the judge. And litigating qualified immunity is no small feat. John Je ries describes qualified immunity doctrine as “a mare’s nest of complexity and confusion.”155 Lower courts are “hopelessly conflicted both within and among themselves” as a result. One circuit court judge reported that “[w]ading through the doctrine of qualified immunity is one of the most morally and conceptually challenging tasks federal appellate court judges routinely face.”

How Qualified Immunity Fails, by Joanna C. Schwartz, Yale Law Journal, 127:2 (2017).

Qualified Immunity cannot be justified as a means of protecting police officers from personal financial liability.

In the study of 1,183 civil lawsuits, police officer defendants paid little, to none, of settlement or verdict amounts. Out of the 44 largest law enforcement agencies included in the study, which included 70 agencies overall, the individual officers paid just 0.02% of the dollars awarded to the plaintiffs in those suits. In the 37 smaller and midsize law enforcement agencies, no individual officer contributed any amount to any award to a plaintiff during this period. All of the officers were indemnified by the employers, even where they were fired, disciplined, or even criminally prosecuted for their conduct. This has been my experience as well, except in one particular case I’ve personally been involved with. I only know of one other instance in West Virginia where there was a second occurrence.

Qualified Immunity cannot be justified as a means of protecting police officers and government officials from the non-financial burdens of discovery and trial.

Often discussed in Qualified Immunity caselaw is this phrase, and so-called policy objective, of shielding government officials from the burdens of participating in a lawsuit, including the discovery process and the trial itself. For this reason, courts have the discretion to apply Qualified Immunity early in the litigation, including at the motion to dismiss stage, prior to any discovery being conducted. However, the study shows that this policy goal is not being met.

I found that, contrary to judicial and scholarly assumptions, qualified immunity is rarely the formal reason that civil rights damages actions against law enforcement end. Qualified immunity is raised infrequently before discovery begins: across the districts in my study, defendants raised qualified immunity in motions to dismiss in 13.9% of the cases in which they could raise the defense. 

These motions were less frequently granted than one might expect: courts granted motions to dismiss in whole or part on qualified immunity grounds 13.6% of the time.Qualified immunity was raised more often by defendants at summary judgment and was more often granted by courts at that stage. But even when courts granted motions to dismiss and summary judgment motions on qualified immunity grounds, those grants did not always result in the dismissal of the cases—additional claims or defendants regularly remained and continued to expose government officials to the possibility of discovery and trial. Across the five districts in my study, just 3.9% of the cases in which qualified immunity could be raised were dismissed on qualified immunity grounds.

And when one considers all the Section 1983 cases brought against law enforcement defendants—each of which could expose law enforcement officials to whatever burdens are associated with discovery and trial—just 0.6% of cases were dismissed at the motion to dismiss stage and 2.6% were dismissed at summary judgment on qualified immunity grounds.

How Qualified Immunity Fails, by Joanna C. Schwartz, Yale Law Journal, 127:2 (2017).

Thus, Qualified Immunity was the reason for dismissal in only 3.2% of the 1,183 lawsuits in the study. The defendants raised the defense in 37.6% of the cases where the defense was available. Out of these, only 13.9% of these were raised at the earliest point available – that is, the motion to dismiss stage – that being the only method of avoiding the burden of participating in the discovery process. Courts granted less than 18% of those motions raised at the motion to dismiss stage, which includes motions granted “in part,” which means that only some claims were dismissed, and that others were allowed to proceed. 

Therefore, the existence of Qualified Immunity is not serving the alleged policy goal of shielding government officials from the burden of participating in the litigation process. Unless, of course, one considers 3.2% to be a substantial shield from litigation. To the contrary, it arguably has increased the negative public perception of a lack of equal justice in the justice system as a whole.

How to strip a police officer of Qualified Immunity

To strip a police officer of qualified immunity in a civil rights lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish that:

1. the officer’s conduct violated a federal statute or constitutional right; and

2. the right was clearly established at the time of the conduct, such that

3. an objectively reasonable officer would have understood that the conduct

violated that right.

Which comes first? Until recently, the United States Court of Appeals required a court to first determine whether or not a constitutional right had been violated and then determine whether an officer was entitled to qualified immunity. See Saucier v. Katz, 121 S.Ct. 2151 (2001). Courts and attorneys were routinely ignoring this mandate and somewhat recently, the United States Supreme Court in Pearson v. Callahan (2009) reverted back to its initial analysis and now courts are free to evaluate these issues in whatever order the court desires. 

The real world application of Qualified Immunity.

1. There generally tends to be a “grace period “between a change in the law, and then moment it becomes “clearly established” for qualified immunity purposes.

2. Qualified Immunity is generally a poor defense to claims of excessive use of force by a police officer. The reason for this is because this often involves highly contested disputes of fact which make a trial likely. For example, a plaintiff alleges an officer kicked him in the groin while he was handcuffed. The officer responds that the plaintiff is lying, and that he did no such thing. This is most certainly going to require a trial to decide the truth of the matter. It doesn’t really involve a legal analysis of whether a police officer would know it would be a civil rights violation to kick a handcuffed detainee in the groin for no good reason. The primary exception to the excessive force rule is police shooting cases where the plaintiff is dead. Such a case usually involves family members of the decased filing suit. As such, the plaintiff himself/herself cannot tell his/her side of the story. With only one side available in many such cases, the court may grant qualified immunity based on the officers’ un-contradicted affidavits or deposition testimony.

3. Qualified Immunity is a very effective defense when dealing with search and seizure issues, which are rapidly developing and changing (due to commonly being involved in criminal litigation, which occurs in much greater volume and frequency). This creates so-called “grey areas” of the law, for which courts tend to give police officers the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

4. An officer’s mistaken understanding of the law, or a reasonable misapprehension of the propriety of his conduct, can still provide a defense under Qualified Immunity. See Saucier v. Katz, 533 U.S. 194, 205 (2001) (“The concern of the immunity inquiry is to acknowledge that reasonable mistakes can be made as to the legal constraints on particular police conduct. It is sometimes difficult for an officer to determine how the relevant legal doctrine, here excessive force, will apply to the factual situation the officer confronts. An officer might correctly perceive all of the relevant facts but have a mistaken understanding as to whether a particular amount of force is legal in those circumstances. If the officer’s mistake as to what the law requires is reasonable, however, the officer is entitled to the immunity defense.”).

5. Qualified immunity applies as an effective defense in wrongful arrest cases, where the Court looks at the facts in the record and determines that probable cause exists, or that the officer made a reasonable mistake as to the existence of probable cause.

Therefore, ironically, Qualified Immunity is not much of a bar to a plaintiff seeking to hold a police officer responsible for the use of excessive force, such as in the recent death of George Floyd. Without a doubt, no court in the land would grant Qualified Immunity to the officer involved in Mr. Floyd’s death. There would be, or probably will be, factual issues to be determined at trial. Rather, it mostly is going to apply to those “grey areas” of search and seizure law. Moreover, it’s going to apply usually without regard to the officer’s subjective ignorance, or expertise, regarding the law. It’s an objective, fairly low standard.

For this reason, I agree with the author of the Yale Law Review study, in that rather than calling for the end of Qualified Immunity, it might be best to return to a subjective standard version of Qualified Immunity, where police officers who act in bad faith, as well as those who act in good faith, though objectively unreasonably, can be held accountable. But as for Qualified Immunity itself, whether it exists, or does not exist, it’s not going to apply to any of the officers directly involved in Mr. Floyd’s death. But it will be involved in many other cases, including cases where there certainly was police misconduct, for which the victim will be barred from recovery. That can’t be a good policy, in my opinion.

Fayette County Search Case was Settled

I’ve had several people ask me about an update on the Sizemore case, which was a search and seizure case out of Fayette County, West Virginia, involving a multi-jurisdictional drug task force who were found by a federal judge to have included false allegations in a search warrant application. The federal criminal charges were dropped after the evidence seized during the search was suppressed from evidence. Then the case was brought to me for a civil lawsuit. We filed in in September of 2019. We recently settled the case.

This was the case where the Charleston Gazette newspaper thought it was shocking that we filed a lawsuit over an illegal search where, despite the illegal warrant, drugs actually were found in my client’s house. I believe the headline was, “Officers found his $25k of heroin. He walked free, and now he’s suing police.”

In my December 2019 update, in response to the police officers’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, I reiterated that equal justice under the law should mean that even people found with drugs should be entitled to the equal application of law and posted our response brief, as well as their motion.

In my January 2020 update, I posted a copy of the federal court’s memorandum opinion and order denying the motion to dismiss, and denying the application of qualified immunity, ordering that the case proceed. You’ve been hearing a lot about qualified immunity lately. The order in this case denied qualified immunity to the officers:

As previously explained, Defendant Morris violated Plaintiffs’ Fourth Amendment protections. Thus, the next question is whether the violated right was clearly established at the time of the events in question. “[I]t has long been established that when law enforcement acts in reckless disregard of the truth and makes a false statement or material omission that is necessary to a finding of probable cause, the resulting seizure will be determined to be unreasonable.” Gilliam v. Sealey, 932 F.3d 216, 241 (4th Cir. 2019); see Franks, 438 U.S. at 157. 

As the Fourth Circuit has explained, “a reasonable officer cannot believe a warrant is supported by probable cause if the magistrate is misled by statements that the officer knows or should know are false.” Miller, 475 F.3d at 632 (quoting Smith v. Reddy, 101 F.3d 351, 355 (4th Cir.1996)).

Qualified immunity is actually pretty rare in excessive force lawsuits – at least where the plaintiff’s attorney knows what he or she is doing. Ideally, there is a dispute of facts, which requires a trial. But in search in seizure cases, it’s usually less of a factual dispute, and more of a legal dispute. The gist of qualified immunity is that courts give some leeway to police officers, who can’t be expected to automatically know each and every new case that comes out. Some courts expand it, unfortunately, but many don’t.

Here, the court equally applied the Fourth Amendment and justice was served. A police officer should not be allowed to lie in order to obtain a search warrant, even where they believe that the ends justifies the means. Here’s the full order, which was quoted above:

My thoughts on the current protests.

If you really care about police misconduct, and if you want to fix things, are you willing to protest over this man? This is James Dean, who died 14 months ago in a hospital in Huntington, West Virginia, after incurring head trauma while handcuffed in the custody of the Kenova, Police Department. After waiting 14 months, the state medical examiner’s office still hasn’t issued a report regarding his cause of death. Why? So they can protect the police, I would presume. The brain surgeon who performed the man’s craniotomy didn’t have any doubt in his mind apparently that the man suffered head trauma causing his brain to bleed.

Petition for Rehearing En Banc Filed Yesterday with the Fourth Circuit in the Orem Search and Seizure Case

Yesterday we filed a Petition for Rehearing En Banc with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the Orem case. On May 11, 2020, the Fourth Circuit handed down a panel decision in the Orem v. Gillmore, et al., Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit, arising out of Berkeley County, West Virginia.

Here’s the background post on the initial filing of the lawsuit, in April of 2018. This is the case that made national headlines when a Republican nominee for Sheriff was arrested for allegedly overdosing in his home. He was arrested by a state trooper, who showed up at the scene of the medical emergency, and performed a warrantless search of a bathroom in the house. The trooper’s longtime secretary was the married to one of the candidate’s political opponents. During the arrest booking, a photograph was taken of the client while handcuffed inside a secure area of the state police detachment. It was uploaded to social media as a meme, and quickly went viral. Of course, the state police investigated themselves, and strangely were unable to find the culprit.

The damage was done, as far as the election is concerned. The prosecuting attorney determined that the arrest resulted from an illegal search of the bathroom, and evidently the court agreed. The criminal charges were dismissed. We filed a civil lawsuit in federal court. Unfortunately however, the Court granted the trooper qualified immunity on the search, and claimed that we missed the statute of limitations on the false arrest count. I argued up and down that the judge and the opposing lawyer were confused, and that false arrest has a 2 year SOL – not 1 year, as they claimed. Well, I was right. The Fourth Circuit overturned the ruling on the statute of limitations, holding that I was right about it being 2 years. But then they granted qualified immunity anyways.

Here’s the Petition for Rehearing:

Here’s the opinion, if you want to read it. Unfortunately, the opinion was pretty sparse – granting the defendant police officer qualified immunity, with pretty much no explanation whatsoever. They just said, it was “beyond debate.”

The expansion of qualified immunity to police officers who violate the most central tenant of the Fourth Amendment – a warrantless search of a home – is concerning. Qualified immunity is supposed to apply to the gray areas, where we can’t expect police officers to understand all the nuances and constant changes in case law. But the warrant requirement for searching a man’s home? The U.S. Supreme Court has long held that a police officer cannot be entitled to qualified immunity for the warrantless search of a home. Hopefully we get a rehearing on this and a new opinion, or else we very well may end up there.

Family Court Judge Searches Home


I just uploaded this yesterday afternoon and it’s already over 12k views on Youtube. Probably because most people can relate with having been before a Family Court judge before, whereas they may not be able to automatically relate to someone involved in the criminal justice process.

This is video footage from our client, Matt Gibson, a federal law enforcement officer who had his home searched by a Family Court judge over a year after his divorce was finalized.  This just happened on March 4, 2020. I’ve never seen anything like this before, so needless to say, I’m still researching the mountain of issues here.

 

This isn’t the first viral video showing a West Virginia Family Court judge on a rampage.  Remember Chip Watkins in good ‘ole Putnam County? Man that guy was something else.

 

The Family Court involved in our video is Raleigh County, West Virginia, Judge Louise Goldston. If you know of this happening in other cases, please let me know as I continue to look into this.

UPDATE 3/11/20: Voicemail received by my client from the opposing attorney the evening prior to the hearing, which he himself scheduled. In the recording he says that the Court asked him to call him to convey a settlement offer (which sounds like he’s admitting to an ex parte communication with the judge, meaning without the other party having the opportunity to participate, which is a big no-no) and he demands $5,000.00 to stop the “hearing” which would take place the next day:

UPDATE 3/13/20: TV news segment: