An ethics complaint filed against a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice has been dismissed after the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission found there was “no evidence to support a finding of probable cause” supporting the claim.
Morgantown resident and two-time failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney filed the complaint on April 16 claiming Davis violated the judicial code of ethics by not recusing herself from a wrongful death case that came before the state’s highest court.
The plaintiff’s case was argued by Michael Fuller, an attorney from a law firm based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Fuller had “several years ago,” according to a January letter sent to attorneys involved in the case, purchased a private jet from Davis’s husband Charleston attorney Scott Segal for $1 million. Fuller had also donated $35,000 to Davis’s 2012 re-election campaign.
The Judicial Investigation Commission ruling released Tuesday said Davis did not violate ethical codes. The ruling said Davis is not privy to information about who donates to her campaign, just like all judicial candidates. Davis also disclosed the information about the jet purchase to both sets of attorneys arguing the wrongful death case.
The attorneys for the nursing home accused in the case filed a motion following the letter to disqualify Davis, but the Justice filed a response saying she had no business or social relationship with Fuller nor did her husband, whose jet sale occurred through a broker, and claimed the campaign donation Fuller contributed in 2012 was small compared to the $1.3 million she had raised.
The Commission ruling said Justice Davis was unaware that Fuller had contributed to her campaign at the time the ruling in the nursing home case was written. The ruling also said Davis knew of her husband’s jet selling, but did not know any of the details of the sale until after an ABC News report on the matter in December 2014.
ABC News Correspondent Brian Ross had traveled to West Virginia in November 2014 to confronted Davis about both her refusal to recuse herself from the case, asking her about both the campaign contributions and private jet sale.
The Commission claimed ABC invented the stories without “any investigation of true facts and without an understanding of a justice’s obligation to serve on cases and not permit ‘judge shopping’ by those who attempt to manipulate the outcome of cases for their own benefit.”
The 16-page ruling goes on to condemn the compliant, two-time failed gubernatorial candidate Bill Maloney, for filing his ethics complaint based on the ABC News reports, calling it “a blatant attempt to garner free publicity for himself.”
Maloney sent a press release following his filing of the complaint which the ruling said “gives the impression Mr. Maloney was motivated by self-seeking political and egotistical purposes.” because he chose to violate the confidentiality rule that comes with filing such complaints.
Signed by JIC Chair Ronald Wilson, the ruling said the violation of such a confidentiality measure can cause irreparable damage to a judge’s reputation and that all future complaints shall remain confidential.