News of two W.Va family court judges being charged for lying under oath follows on heels of Raleigh County judge’s retirement

Justice scales
Justice scales
Published: Feb. 2, 2023 at 10:04 PM EST
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RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Charges from the Special Judicial Investigation Commission against two West Virginia Family Court Judges have been released. This news comes on the heels of former Raleigh County Family Court Judge Lousie E Goldston’s retirement on Tuesday, January 31.

In the spring of 2020, Matt Gibson, a federal law enforcement officer, and his now ex-wife had been in the middle of divorce proceedings for more than a year. On March 4, 2020, Goldston halted a court proceeding between Gibson and his ex-wife. She and her team then went to Gibson’s Raleigh County residence to collect personal property items without a warrant. This included DVDs, pictures, a chainsaw, and other miscellaneous items.

“You know, it was almost unbelief,” Gibson said, looking back on that day. “Like, I can’t believe they’re doing this.”

This action by Goldston created a ripple effect.

Gibson obtained representation from a local civil rights attorney John Bryan.

“I had never heard or seen anything like that before, but I knew it had to be unconstitutional to have a judge show up at your house and search it,” Bryan explained.

Together, Bryan and Gibson brought a federal lawsuit against Goldston for violating his constitutional rights. Bryan said they feared no action would be taken due to judges having what is called “judicial immunity,” meaning they are protected from liability resulting from their judicial actions.

To their surprise, Goldston was not granted immunity by the district court, and, in fact, further action was taken. In November of 2021, Goldston was censured and fined by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and last month the West Virginia House of Delegates moved to impeach her for her actions on March 4, 2020, as well as for comments she made during a disposition on the matter in March of 2021. During this disposition, Goldston said she didn’t believe she had done anything wrong by entering Gibson’s home without a warrant.

On January 30, 2023, Goldston announced her retirement, effective January 31. She had nearly three decades of experience on the bench.

“Looking at it from day one, it would have seemed very unlikely that Mr. Gibson could have gotten any justice here whatsoever,” Bryan shared, following the news of the judge’s retirement. “To fast forward two-and-a-half almost three years later to see how things have went... it really does kind of restore some faith in me and in the integrity of the judicial system.”

While Bryan and Gibson are pleased with the direction this case is taking, they say they fear the root of the problem is the judicial system itself.

“Law enforcement 101, constitution 101, plainly says that you can’t search a house illegally without a search warrant,” Gibson said. “The attorney present should have known that. The judge knew that. If I ain’t mistaken, both of them went to law school, so they absolutely should have known that was against the law. The question is: Did they care it was against the law? That’s what I have an issue with.”

In this case, the issue certainly doesn’t lie with only Goldston. A statement of charges was recently released from the Special Judicial Investigation Committee (JIC). It charges two other Raleigh County Family Court Judges for lying under oath in connection to the issues of Goldston v. Gibson.

The Honorable Deanna R. Rock and the Honorable Glen R. Stotler, both of the 23rd Family Court Circuit, are being charged. The 23rd Circuit covers Mineral, Morgan and Hampshire Counties.

Both Rock and Stotler testified to the JIC that Stotler had worked alone in drafting a letter that he sent to the Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in March of 2021. In the letter, Stotler, who serves as the Family Court Member of the Judicial Hearing Board, said that prosecutors with Judicial Disciplinary Council (JDC), employed by the Supreme Court, should be fired for treating Goldston, as well as Family Court Judge Eric Shuck, poorly during their investigation.

Goldston was charged by the JIC in September of 2020.

In the letter, Stotler said the JDC deceived and intimidated Goldston into making agreements during questioning. These allegations were investigated and debunked by the Office of Disciplinary Council (ODC). A report was issued in April of 2021.

The JDC then launched a complaint against Stotler and Rock, which the JIC picked up. During their own investigation, the JIC asked both judges under oath if Stotler had been the sole creator of the letter. Both said yes. Throughout their investigation, however, the JIC found meta-data showing that Stotler and Rock had worked on the letter together, emailing it back and forth with edits and corrections prior to it being sent.

Stotler and Rock were formally charged in November of 2022. A hearing was continued in the Stotler case, the date of which has not yet been determined. A hearing in the Rock case is scheduled for March of 2023.

Additionally, the fight is not over for Gibson and Bryan. After being denied judicial immunity, Goldston appealed her case to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. According to Bryan, if she wins, she will be appealed and there will be no trial. If Bryan and Gibson win, the trial to seek monetary damages for the March 2020 incident will continue.

WVVA is continuing to follow all components of this story and will update you as we learn more.

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