West Virginia Record

Monday, September 23, 2019

Ethics complaint filed against Raleigh judge

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 11, 2010

CHARLESTON - In addition to her lawsuit, Sally Broessel has filed an ethics complaint against Raleigh Circuit Judge John Hutchison.

Shortly after accusing Hutchison of fraud in a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, Broessel lodged a complaint against him with the Judicial Investigation Commission. The Commission is the arm of the state Supreme Court that investigates complaints against judicial officers including judges.

As in her suit, Broessel alleges Hutchison misconstrued a pauper's affidavit she sent the Raleigh Circuit Clerk's Office in September to waive the $145 fee to file a motion seeking visitation of her granddaughter, Miranda, for the actual petition, which she has yet to file. By deeming the fee wavier as a "Motion to Reconsider" on Miranda's adoption by her step-father, and "ordering" all parties to have a certified copy of it, Hutchison "committ[ed] fraud upon the Court."

Also, she alleges Hutchison violated the Canons of Ethics by committing "felony intimidation" and "obstruction of justice" when he instructed a member of his staff, Paul Flanagan, by "threatening her with unlawful arrest &/or imprisonment." In her suit, Broessel avers Flanagan made the threat on Dec. 4 after confirming neither the Clerk nor Hutchison had in their possession her petition for visitation.

In neither her suit nor complaint does Broessel identify Flanagan's position on Hutchison's staff. According the Raleigh County Clerk's Office, he is Hutchison's office manager, and has served in that capacity since 2002.

His salary is $51,100.

When reached for comment, Hutchison referred calls to his attorney, Stephanie Sheppard.

"I cannot comment on it because it is about records that are closed records," he said.

Sheppard, with the Morgantown law firm of Byrne, Hedges and Lyons, said she only aware of the lawsuit, and not the ethics complaint, Broessel filed. Regarding the suit, she said the allegation Hutchison committed fraud is unfounded.

"In my opinion, it's completely baseless," she said. "In not just in regard to legal sufficiency, but also in regard to the factual allegations."

Hutchison was first appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-Gov. Gaston Caperton to fill the vacancy created by Judge Thomas Canterbury who retired. The next year, Hutchison was successful in winning the unexpired term.

In both 2000, and 2008, Hutchison ran unopposed. Raleigh County is by itself in the 10th Judicial District, and, along with Hutchison, is served by judges Robert A. Burnside and H.L. Kilpatrick III.

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