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Senate Candidate Files Ethics Complaint Against Opponent, Supreme Court Justice

Stollings - Armstead - Poster - Video Screen Grab.png

This is a developing story and may be updated.

7th District Senate candidate, incumbent Ron Stollings, D-Boone, said he has filed ethics complaints regarding a political ad by his opponent, former federal prosecutor Mike Stuart.

The ad contains an image of West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Tim Armstead.

Stollings said this is a violation of the state judicial conduct canons. He announced in a press conference Friday that he has filed complaints with the Supreme Court’s Judicial Investigation Commission, the Secretary of State and the State Bar’s Office of Disciplinary Board.

“A letter has been delivered to the West Virginia Supreme Court requesting that Justice Tim Armstead make a formal public statement that he does not publicly endorse Mike Stuart for State Senate, and publicly call on Stuart to take the ads down from all sources from TV to social media,” Stollings said. “We call on Mike Stuart to do the right thing and pull his ad and apologize to the voters for misleading them.”

Mike Stuart said there’s no problem with the ad and it’s perfectly legal.

“It’s a stock photo that goes back before he was even on the court, I believe. And it was on my social media for years,” Stuart said. ”It’s his 16 year career liberal record, that’s why he’s losing in the district. And so my ad is perfectly compliant. There’s no violations whatsoever. I encourage you to call the Secretary of State’s office.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting (WVPB) has reached out to the Secretary of State’s office and awaits a response.

Armstead responded to a request for comment in a text message to WVPB that reads as follows:

“I understand that you called regarding the Mike Stuart ad. The conduct of judges in West Virginia is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. Rule 4.1(A)(3) of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge not publicly endorse or oppose any candidate for public office. Therefore, I am not permitted to, and am not, publicly endorsing or opposing any candidate in the race. Because it could be viewed by some that the inclusion of my photograph in the ad is an endorsement, I have asked Mike Stuart to remove the photo or discontinue running the ad with the photo included.

Tim Armstead.”

The West Virginia Judicial Conduct Canon states, “A judge or judicial candidate shall take reasonable measures to ensure that other persons do not undertake, on behalf of the judge or judicial candidate, any activities prohibited under paragraph (A).”

In that paragraph, it states, “No Judge shall publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office.”