ELKINS – A Randolph County circuit judge already suspended by the state Supreme Court after admitting to a two-year affair has resigned.
Jaymie Wilfong mailed her resignation letter Tuesday to West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis.
“Please accept this as my formal letter of resignation, effective today,” Wilfong wrote in the letter dated Nov. 18. “My decision to resign is based largely on the fact that I do not want the taxpayers to incur the unnecessary cost of paying for the judges who would have to be appointed during the period of my suspension.
The citizens of Randolph County have my sincere and heartfelt appreciation for allowing me the privilege of serving as their Circuit Judge for nearly six years.”
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court suspended Wilfong without pay for the rest of her current term on the bench. She admitted to an affair with Travis Carter, who was the director of the North Central Community Corrections program in Elkins. Carter and his subordinates could appear in Wilfong's court.
Wilfong said Tuesday the process opened her eyes.
"The local attorneys who filed reports are my colleagues," she told The West Virginia Record. "Their comments caused me to re-evaluate myself, my marriage, and the way people perceive me. For that, I am grateful.
“What I did was morally wrong, and it created discomfort among those who surrounded me. I again wish to apologize to each of those individuals and humbly ask for their forgiveness.
"Please be assured that my improper extrajudicial conduct did not ever adversely affect any decision, any litigant, or any hearing over which I presided."
The court also had censured Wilfong for her 11 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and ordered her to pay all costs associated with the investigation and prosecution of the matter.
But it did not order her to pay a fine of $20,000 without pay, which had been recommended by the Judicial Hearing Board. The board also had recommended a three-year suspension.
"I am grateful to the citizens of Randolph County for their overwhelming confidence, love and support during this difficult year," Wilfong told The Record. "My husband, parents and friends have shown me unconditional support as I have made difficult decisions throughout this time.
"I am grateful to have had the opportunity to serve the citizens of Randolph County as their Circuit Judge since 2009 and their Family Court Judge for six years prior to that. I have worked tirelessly over the past twelve years to promote justice in Randolph County, and I am proud of all that has been accomplished."
Wilfong said she plans to go into private practice.
"As this chapter of my life comes to a close, a new one begins," she told The Record. "I am excited to be opening my own private practice in Elkins, and anticipate handling various cases across the state.
Tentatively, I plan to open my doors on December 1, and look forward to serving the citizens of this state in a different way."
After the suspension ruling was issued earlier this month, Davis had recalled senior status judges John L. Henning, Thomas W. Steptoe Jr. and Thomas H. Keadle to serve in place of Wilfong until her suspension is over.
Justice Menis Ketchum, who authored the court’s opinion, wrote that justice must be mixed with a little mercy.
“Judge Wilfong’s conduct seriously demeaned her office, impaired the integrity of the judiciary and substantially undermined public confidence in the administration of justice in Randolph County,” Ketchum wrote. “Her conduct therefore warrants a substantial sanction.
“However, this court is ever mindful that we discipline a judge not for the purposes of punishment, vengeance or retribution, but to instruct the public and all judges, ourselves included, of the importance of the function performed by judges in a free society.”
The justices believe Wilfong’s misconduct “impacted directly upon the administration of justice and withered the public’s perception of the administration of justice in Randolph County.”
Justice Allen Loughry concurred in part and dissented in part with the majority ruling. He wrote in an accompanying opinion that he agreed with the suspension, but he says he thinks Wilfong should have been fined the $20,000 as well.
“The majority, or so it appears, is more concerned with minimizing sanctions to a single public official than ensuring that the entirety of the Randolph County judiciary is in order,” Loughry wrote. “It is clear that Judge Wilfong cavalierly betrayed the trust of the voters and citizens of Randolph County.
“Equally clear is the fact that her conduct will cost the entirety of the state’s taxpayers considerable expense to address this betrayal of the public’s trust. The undisputed testimony in this case demonstrates that the investigation into Judge Wilfong’s actions cost Randolph County approximately $50,000.
“Because of her actions and resultant suspension, this court has been forced to assign and pay temporary judges to cover the remainder of Judge Wilfong’s term at considerable expense to the taxpayers.”
This summer, the Judicial Hearing Board had recommended Wilfong be censured, suspended for three years without pay, fined $20,000 and pay court costs. She appealed in September, saying a public reprimand was a more appropriate discipline. She has been on suspension since May.
Before the Supreme Court, Wilfong was being represented by Charleston attorney Harry Deitzler and Elkins attorney David A. Sims.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 14-0379