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Kanawha magistrate facing judicial misconduct charges

The Judicial Investigation Commission has accused a Kanawha County magistrate with 12 judicial conduct violations in a three-set, formal statement of charges.

In a process similar to a criminal indictment, the commission found sufficient reason to believe Magistrate Jack Pauley signed a domestic violence protection order without required information, left his night shift early, and improperly took over another magistrate’s case.

The three charges are tied to two subsequent and related deaths, though as much is not stated in the complaint.

A judicial hearing board will hold a public meeting regarding the charges within 120 days before filing a recommendation to the state Supreme Court regarding potential discipline.

According to the statement of charges against Pauley, on Aug. 25, 2016, he signed a partially filled out domestic violence petition that lacked required information establishing “clear and convincing evidence of immediate and present danger of abuse, including any statement of facts.”

The complaint states Pauley relied upon his assistant to make sure the form was properly completed and signed the document without reviewing it.

When filling out the ensuing emergency protective order, Pauley did not list required information such as the victim of the accused and did not require the alleged aggressor, Housein Keaton, to give up his firearms, despite indication in the petition that he owned them.

According to an Aug. 26, 2016 story in this newspaper, Keaton was found dead on his porch around 2:15 a.m. that morning. Authorities said he died in a shooting.

The complaint also states when the JIC began investigating the matter, Pauley — in a written letter — first incorrectly claimed the victim provided him a written statement of the facts. In a sworn statement months later, he admitted the victim never provided him such a statement.

The second charge filed against Pauley accuses him of leaving his post early on a night shift. Although a magistrate is required to be on duty until midnight, the complaint states he left at roughly 11 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2016.

When a Charleston Police officer brought over a criminal complaint and warrant for Keaton’s arrest, arriving after Pauley left but before midnight, the officer had to leave the documents in a box outside the court.

Keaton died hours later.

In a sworn statement, Pauley admitted to leaving early at 11 p.m. that night as well as on other occasions without calling another magistrate to cover the shift.

According to a 2013 editorial from the Charleston Daily-Mail, one of Pauley’s first acts as chief magistrate was to “explore ways to reduce the hours for the magistrate court,” ending the shift at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.

Lastly, the commission charged Pauley with improperly acting on a case that belonged to another magistrate, in violation of administrative rules for the courts. Pauley is accused of ordering Joshua Lee Miles’ release from jail, even though the case belonged to former Magistrate Julie Yeager, who called in sick.

According to the filing, when the JIC interviewed him on the matter, he said he knew the case was not his, but handles other judges’ cases on a regular basis.

“I do it all the time,” he said, as quoted in the filing. “If I didn’t do it, we wouldn’t get anything done.”

Though he made the order Aug. 12, an earlier report from this newspaper states the fax did not go through to the jail. Miles committed suicide during the early hours of April 13.

Pauley can file responsive pleadings to his charges within 30 days of their July 18 issuance. Reached Saturday afternoon, Pauley declined to comment.

Reach Jake Zuckerman at jake.zuckerman@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-4814 or @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.

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