CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – A West Virginia Family Court Judge is the subject of an impeachment resolution to be introduced by the WV House of Delegates on Monday following the commission of a warrantless search which violated, among other things, Constitutional rights of West Virginia citizens.
The resolution, of which the lead sponsor is Republican Delegate Geoff Foster (Putnam, District 20,) implicates Louise E. Goldston, Judge of the Family Court of the 13th Circuit of West Virginia in the violation of the Constitutional civil rights of West Virginia citizens, violation of Constitutional separation of powers, incompetency, neglect of duty, and certain high crimes and misdemeanors committed in her capacity and by virtue of the office of her position, according to a resolution Foster filed in the legislature on Friday afternoon.
Specifically, the resolution pertains to Judge Goldston’s conduct at the Raleigh County home of Matt Gibson, a divorce litigant before Goldston’s court, on March 4, 2020. During a visit to Gibson’s property, a search of Gibson’s home was commissioned by Judge Goldston despite the lack of any warrant which might permit such a search and in the face of clear objections from Gibson himself.
Goldston – accompanied by a Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputy during the visit – threatened to have Gibson jailed for insisting a proper search warrant be presented prior to a search of the premises. Goldston also refused to disclose the purpose of her search on March 4, 2020, and refused to allow an opportunity for any objection to the visit and subsequent search.
This visit came when Judge Goldston – who also represents Wyoming and Summers County Family Courts – brought Raleigh County court proceedings between Gibson and his ex-wife to an abrupt halt, instructing all parties present to make the trip to Gibson’s home for reasons which were not made readily apparent.
In video footage collected by Gibson on his cell phone during the incident, Gibson can clearly be observed requesting a search warrant be presented, advising Judge Goldston that she would not be making entry into the home otherwise.
“Oh yeah I will,” the judge snapped back. “You’re either going to let me in that house or he’s going to arrest you,” said Goldston, motioning to the accompanying sheriff’s deputy.
Upon realizing that the exchange was being recorded, Goldston instructs the sheriff’s deputy to, “take his phone,” and demands that recording cease, insisting that an arrest will take place otherwise.
“You’re not allowed to record this,” she says as Gibson makes clear his wishes to maintain possession of his personal device. “Turn off your phone or I’ll take you to jail! Do you understand that?”
Gibson counters, asserting his legal right to conduct the recording on his own property.
“I can record on my land,” he says calmly. “This is my land, ma’am.”
“I am the judge,” Goldston shoots back, and Gibson’s phone is eventually seized by the deputy sheriff. In the recording, Gibson can also be observed asking the judge to recuse herself due to her having placed herself in a witness capacity rather than a judiciary capacity, a request which Goldston swiftly denied.
Upon making entry into Gibson’s home, the individuals present – which included Gibson’s ex-wife as well as her attorney – began searching through his personal belongings seeking items which had allegedly been awarded in the divorce. At one point the judge herself helps herself to a seat on Gibson’s furniture inside the home.
“When you look at her warrantless search and seizure, what she did violated – in my opinion – the first, fourth, and fourteenth amendments [of the US Constitution],” said Geoff Foster, the lead sponsor of the bill, which has gained support from nearly a dozen additional Delegates that reportedly include Delegate Brandon Steele of Raleigh County, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Roger Hanshaw, of Clay County, both of which are among a handful of attorneys that are also members of the House of Delegates.
The amendments to which Foster refers pertain to freedoms of religion, assembly, expression, petition, and peaceful assembly (First Amendment,) the right to be secure in one’s home and be protected against unreasonable searches and/or seizures (Fourth Amendment,) and equal protection under law for US citizens (Fourteenth Amendment,) respectively.
Goldston was formally charged by the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission on September 18, 2020, as a result of her conduct on March 4, 2020.
The West Virginia Lawyer Disciplinary Board Investigative Panel’s closing report dated May 13, 2021, found Goldston to be in violation of Section 6, Article 3 of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia which protects citizens of West Virginia from unreasonable and warrantless searches and seizures, as well as Section 1, Article V of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia requiring the separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches of government.
A March 1, 2021, deposition saw Goldston declare, under oath, “I don’t believe I violated the canons of ethics.”
When asked specifically whether she regretted physically entering Gibson’s home, Goldston responded, “Do I think I did anything wrong? No.”
Goldston was issued a public censure and $1,000 fine filed on November 18, 2021, by the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia following a Judicial Disciplinary Proceeding.
“Judge Goldston clearly left her role as an impartial judicial officer and participated in an executive function when she entered the ex-husband’s home to oversee the search,” read corresponding documents pertaining to the events of March 4, 2020.
In spite of this disciplinary action, Goldston maintained under oath that she believed herself to have done nothing wrong when commissioning the illegal search of Gibson’s property. Delegate Foster asserts that Goldston’s lack of remorse for her conduct establishes the potential for similar injustices to be committed under Goldston’s authority moving forward.
“The main reason for the articles of impeachment is the fact that Judge Goldston said that she didn’t think she did anything wrong and that she would do it again, and plans to run for re-election,” Foster tells LOOTPRESS. “ If that’s the case then I think it’s incumbent upon the legislature within their authority of impeachment to make sure that the constituents are protected from that happening.”
Gibson himself is in agreement with the impending resolution articles, believing the development to be representative of the voice of the people throughout the State of West Virginia.
“I feel like it’s a fair resolution, it’s the only resolution we the people have,” Gibson tells LOOTPRESS. “The Supreme Court cannot remove her from her office, only the legislators can. It’s the people’s only resolution to get a corrupt official off the bench.”
He further remarks that a resignation from Goldston would be in accordance with maintaining the dignity of the state justice system and declares that unjust individuals have no place in West Virginia courts.
“I think Mrs. Goldston should resign and save the Judicial system the integrity that it deserves. It’s time for West Virginia to clean its courts up. We’ve had enough corrupt judges in the last several years, it’s time to clean it up.”
LOOTPRESS spoke with Delegate Eric Brooks (R-Raleigh, 045) who gave his thoughts on the situation Sunday, citing a sense of duty as a prime motivator to act in the face of injustice.
“It’s incumbent upon us as members of the House of Delegates to take this action when we see this kind of blatant disregard for duties of office, and we’re moving forward with these articles of impeachment,” says Brooks, one of many sponsors of the resolution. He goes on to touch upon the impeachment process and what it will entail.
“We do an impeachment and, if it’s approved by the House of course, it’ll be sent to the Senate for the actual trial. So we do what’s essentially an indictment over on our side and then we send it to the State Senate to do the trial,” Brooks explains.
“This case in particular is an ideal case for this cause of action. I think this is really a prototypical case. If we were ever going to engage a judge for misconduct, this would be it.”
Judge Louise Goldston was appointed by Then-Governor Gaston Caperton as a Family Law Master in 1994 and was re-appointed by circuit judges in 1999. Then-Governor Bob Wise appointed Goldston to the bench in the Thirteenth Family Court Circuit. She was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2008 and 2016. Goldston has been the Family Court Judicial Association President three times and was previously a senior law clerk to US District Judge Elizabeth V. Hallanan.
Judge Goldston herself has yet to respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.