GRAFTON — A Taylor County magistrate judge is resigning after he was ordered several times to cease practicing law.
Taylor Magistrate Judge Robert L. Bolton III's resignation goes into effect Oct. 15, according to a public admonishment filed Aug. 23 with the state Judicial Investigation Commission. Bolton has worked as a magistrate for Taylor County since April 1, 2015, and has been licensed to practice law since Oct. 15, 2014.
Before Bolton took office, he contacted the JIC and requested a formal opinion as to what, if any, practice of law he could engage in while serving as a full-time magistrate and he was told he could "engage in the limited practice of law within the parameters set forth by the [West Virginia] Legislature and as long as it does not impede your service as a magistrate or violate the Code of Judicial Conduct," according to the admonishment.
Bolton repeatedly performed services as an attorney for paying or pro bono clients while he was at the courthouse when he was supposed to be working as a magistrate and he also sometimes used court resources, such as the computer, e-mail and/or copy paper to perform those tasks, according to the admonishment.
In March, two judges met with Bolton, reprimanded him for engaging in the private practice of law from magistrate court and advised him that he was to immediately cease the endeavor while he was at work as a judicial officer and Bolton assured the judges he would comply.
However, in May, Bolton continued to practice law while on duty as a magistrate.
"Respondent's conduct demonstrates blatant indifference for the Code of Judicial Ethics, state law, court orders, the JIC and the supervisory authority of two circuit judges," the admonishment states. "On three separate occasions, Respondent was told by the JIC, by administrative order and by the circuit judges that he could not engage in the private practice of law while on duty at the courthouse as a magistrate. He ignored these warnings."
The JIC noted that Bolton exhibited poor judgment and an absence of high moral character necessary for a judicial officer.
The JIC is hopeful that with age, Bolton will learn from his mistakes and have a better understanding necessary to serve as a judicial officer and, because of that, the commission barred Bolton from holding office for 20 years instead of the usual lifetime ban imposed in similar cases.
Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia Complaint Number: 86-2019