Three-judge panel denies petition to remove magistrate

By Kyla Asbury | Jul 24, 2014

WELCH - A three-judge panel has denied a petition to remove McDowell Magistrate Steve L. Cox.

The three-judge panel was appointed by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and heard arguments on July 21 on a motion to dismiss in the case brought by Kevin B. Wade.

The panel, which comprised of Mercer Circuit Judge Omar Aboulhosn and Senior Status Judges John L. Cummings and Charles M. Vickers, convened the hearing in the courtroom of McDowell Circuit Judge Booker T. Stephens. 

The court "considered the petition for removal, the responses...and the pertinent legal authorities and, as a result of these deliberations, the court concludes that the petition should be denied," the July 22 dismissal order states.

"...this court finds and concludes that the petitioner has failed to provide any evidence to substantiate any of the alleged grounds for the respondent's removal from office," the order states.

Of significant important to this removal proceeding, Wade has accused Cox of committing two crimes: those being the "snide remark" that Cox wrote on the first pages of the orders denying Wade's petitions for personal safety order in two cases, which were "alterations" to the original orders that had not been issued to Wade at the time Cox denied the petitions.

"These texts fail to rise to the level of being 'fraudulent,'" the order states.

Cox's notation is akin to a note to the clerk, or even himself, with regard to the fee Wade was supposed to assess by checking the appropriate box due to the fact that he denied the petitions, according to the order.

The notation Cox made at the bottom of the document was: "Mr. Wade said he was going to call Supreme Court and would be back in a few to pay fee."

"These notations were not an alteration of the facts in the cases or had any bearing on the evidence taken in the cases," the order states. "These notations did not change the substance of the orders, nor did they pertain to any matters material to the appeals filed therein."

In his petition, Wade alleged numerous counts of misconduct, malfeasance, neglect of duty and gross immorality by Cox.

The first count of the petition filed by Wade concerned a petition for safety order. The second count also concerned a safety order petition filed by Wade against McDowell County Sheriff Martin West. A third count also was a petition for a safety order that alleged stalking and harassment.

Wade claimed Cox found probable cause and signed for several criminal complaints brought to him by law enforcement officers without actually reading the complaints.

The "revised" or "amended" order was not issued to Wade, and he was unaware of the revised order until several days later while reviewing court files, according to the suit.

Wade alleged in the complaint that the action by Cox was "fraudulent" and a "false entry."

Wade represented himself.

Cox was represented by John Hedges.

Although the court has ruled against Wade’s petition to remove Cox from public office, an indictment returned by the McDowell County grand jury charging Cox with two misdemeanor counts of falsifying court documents still stands and is scheduled for trial on Oct. 2

A pre-trial conference has been set for Aug. 22.

McDowell Circuit Court case number: 14-C-54

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