CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state’s Judicial Hearing Board has recommended to the West Virginia Supreme Court that a Randolph County judge be suspended without pay for three years.
Circuit Judge Jaymie Wilfong was charged by the Judicial Investigation Commission with violating several canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct in April.
According to the charges, Wilfong performed sexual acts with former North Central Community Corrections director Travis Carter in her judicial chamber and sent sexually explicit emails, texts and instant messages and nude photos of herself from her personal cell phone to Carter on his county-issued cellphone and computer.
The Judicial Hearing Board’s role was to conduct a hearing on the complaint and make a recommendation for the final settlement of the matter to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
The board recommended Wilfong be censured, suspended for three years without pay, fined $20,000 and ordered to pay court costs.
Wilfong’s lawyers had proposed she be reprimanded.
The Judicial Investigation Commission’s special judiciary counsel had recommended a four-year suspension.
Wilfong self-reported to the Judicial Investigation Commission in October of 2013 that she had been involved in a romantic and sexual relationship with Carter for two years. He resigned in December 2013.
In its recommendation, the board noted that Wilfong had otherwise performed her duties in a satisfactory manner, had self-reported her affair, had worked on initiatives to improve the judicial system, and had some support from the community and family, including her husband.
But the board also said Wilfong, who often sentenced offenders to the Community Corrections program and presided over cases in which Carter served as witness, was well aware of the ethical implications of her relationship with Carter.
According to the order, she repeatedly told court officials she was ending the relationship, compromised the jobs of other court officials by asking them to keep quiet, used her power as judge to advance the interests of the Community Corrections program, and demonstrated a fundamental lack of judgment and integrity.
The board also said she self-reported the affair only after being contacted by a lawyer for the Judicial Investigation Commission, and admitted the facts of the case but denied that they constituted ethical violations until a few days before the hearing.
The Judicial Hearing Board could have recommended a suspension without pay for one year for each of 11 violations as well as a fine of up to $5,000 for each of the 11 counts or a total fine of $55,000.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which investigated the case, and Wilfong have 30 days to file written consent or objection with the Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The Supreme Court of Appeals also can choose not to accept the recommendation.
Reach Erin Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5163 or follow @erinbeckwv on Twitter.