CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The state Judicial Hearing Board has come down hard on Randolph County Circuit Court Judge Jaymie Wilfong. The board has recommended unanimously that Wilfong be suspended for three years without pay, fined $20,000 and be censured.
Judge Wilfong was charged earlier this year with two violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct in connection with an extramarital affair with Travis Carter who was the director of North Central Community Corrections at the time.
The board, in a recommendation released Friday, found Wilfong “demonstrated, over a two-year period, a fundamental lack of candor, judgment, integrity and fairness” by carrying on the affair in her courthouse office and failing to disqualify herself in matters where her impartiality might be questioned.
One of the attorneys for Wilfong has argued that she should not lose her job because of an affair. Instead, Harry Deitzler said he thinks a reprimand for Wilfong from the state Supreme Court would be appropriate.
“I think that she should be treated fairly and reasonably,” Deitzler said Friday. “You don’t take law licenses and remove from the bench for that kind of thing.”
Deitzler said, even though Wilfong would consult with Carter and others in his office at times, the affair, which she self-reported, did not affect any cases.
“They’re saying, ‘Well, now she’s had this extramarital affair. We can’t trust her as a judge because she had bad judgment.’ That is so ridiculous,” Deitzler said. “She understands that the public had a perception that this was an impropriety, but there was never any effect on any case.”
The Judicial Hearing Board will next offer a recommendation to the state Supreme Court about a possible punishment for Wilfong. It’ll be up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision, though the Court cannot remove Wilfong from the bench. Only the Legislature can do that.
On Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline”, before the decision was handed down, Deitzler said such a suspension would be too much for what Wilfong did. “This lady had an affair and we’ve made her wear the scarlet letter for six, eight months,” he said. “Haven’t we beat her up enough over this?”
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel and the judge have 30 days to file consent or objections to the hearing board’s recommendations. The final decision on discipline rests with the state Supreme Court.