After year of judicial turmoil, majority of oversight commission is replaced

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Judicial Investigations Commission, which conducts ethical or legal probes of West Virginia’s judiciary, has had an overhaul of its membership.

That comes on the heels of major controversies last year for West Virginia’s Supreme Court.

A majority — five of the nine members — are new, Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy confirmed.

One of those replaced was the chairman, Hancock Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson.

Wilson was the subject of some controversy during last year’s impeachment of the Supreme Court because of varying roles he was carrying out.

He had signed off on an ethics investigation of justices Beth Walker, Robin Davis and Margaret Workman that concluded without taking any disciplinary action against them.

The Judicial Investigation Commission did file 32 counts against then-justice Allen Loughry, saying he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Wilson also was named to a temporary version of the Supreme Court to hear a petition by Justice Workman to halt her impeachment trial, and was listed as a potential witness in the impeachment trial of Justice Walker.

Also replaced was the Judicial Investigations Commission vice chairwoman, Jefferson County Magistrate Gail Boober.

And also replaced were Andrew Frye, a senior status judge, and two members of the public on the commission, Thomas Burgoyne and Robert Fitzsimmons.

The new membership includes Judge Allen Moats as the chairman and Senior Status Judge Christopher Wilkes as the vice chairman.

Other current members are Judge Bridget Cohee, Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick, Family Court Judge Robert Hicks, Magistrate Mike Woelfel and three members of the public, Layton Cottrill, Cynthia Persily and Margaret Ann O’Neal.

Bundy, the Supreme Court spokeswoman, did not provide a reason for the changes.

MetroNews asked about changes to the Judicial Investigations Commission in late February but didn’t get an answer. MetroNews asked again in March, but again got no answer.

The Charleston Gazette-Mail then had a story today about changes to the Judicial Investigation Commission.

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