State Supreme Court replaces majority of Judicial Investigation Commission

By Chris Dickerson | May 10, 2019

CHARLESTON – Five of the nine members of the state Judicial Investigation Commission, including the former commission chairman, have been replaced.

All five of the members who were removed from the JIC were serving already expired terms, according to state Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy.

Those who were replaced are former JIC Chairman and Hancock Circuit Judge Ronald Wilson, Vice Chairwoman and Jefferson County Magistrate Gail Boober, senior status judge Andrew Frye, Wheeling attorney Robert Fitzsimmons and Thomas Burgoyne, a former FBI agent.

The four members who remain on the JIC are senior status judge Christopher Wilkes, Raleigh Circuit Judge H.L. Kirkpatrick, Tyler County Family Court Judge Robert Hicks and Marshall University general counsel Layton Cottrill. Wilkes now is the JIC vice chairman.

The new appointees are Taylor Circuit Judge Allen Moats, Berkeley Circuit Judge Bridget Cohee, Cabell County Magistrate Mike J. Woelfel, Highland Hospital CEO Dr. Cynthia Persily of Charleston and United Way of Central West Virginia COO Margaret Ann O’Neal of Charleston. Moats is the new JIC chairman.

The JIC consists of three circuit judges, one magistrate, one family court judge, one retired judge and three members of the public. The Supreme Court appoints all members, who serve staggered three-year terms. Members who complete one full term are eligible for reappointment twice.

The commission was create in 1982 to investigate alleged violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Last year, the JIC investigated four state Supreme Court justices regarding alleged violations of judicial ethics.

Last year, the JIC filed a 32-count statement of charges against former Justice Allen Loughry. In February, Loughry admitted to eight of those counts. He agreed to pay a fine, disbarment and promised to never run for public office again. He currently is serving a two-year sentence in a federal prison in South Carolina.

The JIC also investigated current Chief Justice Beth Walker, Justice Margaret Workman and former Justice Robin Jean Davis for alleged ethics violations. In July, the JIC said it finished those investigations without taking disciplinary action against the three justices.

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