Benjamin

CHARLESTON- Braxton County Magistrate Carolyn Cruickshanks cannot draw her pay while on suspension for allegedly helping her son set up a jail inmate for retaliation, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled.

At oral arguments May 9, attorney James Douglas of Sutton told Justices that Cruickshanks needed income so she could pay his fees.

The Justices didn't care.

"She can file a pauperis affidavit and seek court appointed counsel as any indigent defendant can," Justice Brent Benjamin wrote. He also noted that if Cruickshanks prevails in criminal and disciplinary actions, she will get back pay.

Chief Justice Robin Davis and Justice Spike Maynard agreed with Benjamin. Justices Joseph Albright and Larry Starcher concurred in part, dissented in part and reserved the right to file separate opinions.

Cruickshanks was arrested March 12 and charged with conspiracy to commit an offense of retaliation against a state witness. Police said she visited son Jordan Grubb at Central Regional Jail on Feb. 7 and gave him an envelope.

At oral arguments, Douglas said Cruickshanks did not know what was in the envelope. He said she picked it up from her son's attorney.

Justice Spike Maynard wondered if it might have contained cookies.

Documents in the envelope showed that inmate Philip Dailey agreed to testify against Grubb. The documents exposed Dailey as a snitch.

Next time Grubb phoned Cruickshanks, jail personnel recorded the call.

According to police, Cruickshanks said, "That was your plan, wasn't it?"

According to police, Grubb replied affirmatively and Cruickshanks said, "That's what he gets."

The Supreme Court of Appeals suspended her without pay three days after her arrest. She moved for suspension with pay.

At oral arguments, Charles Garten represented the Judicial Investigation Commission. His arguments succeeded.

"Retaliation against witnesses strikes at the core of our system of justice," Benjamin wrote. "... the consequences of her alleged actions could easily have brought violence on Dailey ...

"Indeed, Dailey had to be moved into protective custody ..."

He wrote that Cruickshanks claimed her actions were personal.

"Magistrate Cruickshanks, a judicial officer, cannot so conveniently shed the obligations of her office," Benjamin wrote.

He quoted two canons of conduct that she violated.

One states that, "…a judge shall respect and comply with the law…and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."

The other states, "A judge shall not allow family, social, political or other relationships to influence the judge's judicial conduct or judgment."

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