On Friday, August 4, 2023, the Judicial Investigation Commission (JIC) of West Virginia concluded its investigation into Magistrate Donald Sansom of Mingo County, resulting in a public admonishment for multiple violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The commission found probable cause that Magistrate Sansom had breached several rules governing his judicial responsibilities.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of the Honorable Donald Sansom,” and was brought by Mingo County Sheriff’s Sergeant Norman Mines and Judicial Disciplinary Counsel, under complaint nos. 55-2022 & 91-2022.

The charges cited Sansom’s violation of multiple provisions of the Code of Judicial Conduct, including Rules 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.2, 2.5(A), 2.6(A), 3.1(B), 3.1(C), and 3.7(A)(2), which provide:

A judge shall comply with the law, including the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct.

A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

A judge shall uphold and apply the law and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.

A judge shall perform judicial and administrative duties, competently and diligently.

A judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law.

A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law or this Code. However, when engaging in extrajudicial activities, a judge shall not:

Participate in activities that will lead to frequent disqualification of the judge;
Participate in activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality;

The investigation stemmed from complaints filed by Mingo County Sheriff’s Sergeant Norman Mines and the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel, outlining various allegations against Magistrate Sansom. The JIC conducted a thorough review of the complaints, including Sansom’s written response, sworn statement, and gathered evidence.

According to the court document, Sansom engaged in misconduct by allowing non-lawyers to engage in legal activities, such as signing and submitting legal documents on behalf of defendants in various criminal cases. Furthermore, Sansom was found to have caused a defendant to spend extra time in jail due to his failure to wait for confirmation before releasing the defendant. Additionally, Sansom shared various posts on his social media accounts that compromised the appearance of his judicial independence and impartiality. These posts included pictures and endorsements related to law enforcement activities and charitable fundraising efforts.

In his response and sworn statement, Sansom admitted his mistakes and apologized for his misconduct, and promised not to repeat such mistakes.

The Commission reviewed the Complaint, Sansom’s admission, and other evidence from the investigation and unanimously agreed that Sansom broke the Code of Judicial Conduct as charged.

The Commission determined that formal discipline was unnecessary but decided that a written admonishment was appropriate.

Magistrate Sansom’s courtroom is located at 101 Logan Street, Room 303 Williamson in West Virginia, and can be reached at 304-235-2827. His info can be found on LinkedIn.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.