Louise E. Goldston, who serves as a family court judge for the Thirteenth Family Court Circuit, has now been censured and fined $1,000 after a ruling by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
According to the court’s order, filed on November 18, the ruling came about after an incident that occurred on March 4, 2020. On that day, Goldston was presiding over a contempt hearing in Raleigh County, in which an ex-wife was alleging that her ex-husband had damaged some of her personal property and would not return some items following their divorce.
During the hearing, Goldston ordered the parties to meet at the ex-husband’s residence, the order states. Once they arrived at his home, the ex-husband, Matthew Gibson, became aware that Goldston planned to search his residence for his ex-wife’s property, asked the judge to “recuse herself because she had placed herself in a ‘witness capacity’” and told her that she needed a search warrant to enter his home. Goldston “denied his request as not timely filed” and stated that “he was either going to let her in the house or her bailiff, who had accompanied her to the house, was going to arrest” him. At this time the judge also requested that Gibson and his girlfriend stop recording the incident with their cell phones. Both individuals complied with the request, but a portion of what had already been recorded was later uploaded to the internet.
The document further states that “Judge Goldston brought with her into the house the bailiff, the ex-wife, and the ex-wife’s attorney and personally supervised the search for and recovery of items.” Numerous items including “photographs, yearbooks, DVDs, recipes and a chainsaw” were located and recovered from the home, along with an umbrella stand–all of which were awarded to the ex-wife by Goldston.
Soon after the hearing, the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel became aware of the incident after numerous public views and critical comments were made in correlation to the uploaded video of the incident.
A complaint was filed against Goldston on March 11, 2020, by the Judicial Investigation Commission, the court order continues. On Sept. 18, 2020, the Judicial Investigation Commission issued a formal statement of charges, filed with the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, describing “Goldston’s longstanding practice of visiting homes of litigants.”
The Court found that 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.”
Justice Tim Armstead delivered the Opinion of the Court, Justice William Wooten dissented and reserved the right to file a separate opinion, Justice John Hutchison did not participate in the decision and Judge Jennifer P. Dent of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit sat in by temporary assignment.
Although this case against Goldston has come to a close, back in March, Gibson filed a civil lawsuit against Judge Goldston; the Raleigh County Commission; Bailiff Jeff McPeake; two Raleigh County Sheriff’s Deputies, Brian White and Bobby Stump; and his ex-wife’s defense attorney, Kyle Lusk, alleging that all of the parties named violated his Constitutional rights, according to court documents. The lawsuit contains six counts against the defendants including unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the fourth amendment; violation of the first amendment as Gibson was told to stop video of the incident; a Monell claim against the Raleigh County Commission; violations of Gibson’s right to due process; violation of The Equal Protection Clause; and conspiracy with a state official.
The case is currently scheduled for trial before District Judge Frank W. Volk at the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in Beckley in June 2022.