On December 15, 2022, the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia admonished the Magistrate of Kanawha County, Ward Harshbarger III for derogatory comments against an officer.

The case is entitled “In the matter of Ward Harshbarger III”, brought by Montgomery Police Chief Paris Workman, with case no. 129-2022.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct Rules1.1,1.2,2.3(8)and2.8(B).

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, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment. 

A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity.

The Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.

The Complainant filed a complaint against the respondent for misconduct. Allegedly, on September 10, 2022, one of the complainant’s officers transported a defendant to Magistrate Court for arraignment. The respondent who was on duty complained about the officer arriving so close to the midnight closing time. The respondent allegedly “verbally reprimanded the officer in an unprofessional way in front of other officers and court staff”. 

The filing states:

“The officer stated that the Respondent also threw a Styrofoam cup at him. On October 6, 2022, an officer arrested and transported a defendant to Magistrate Court on an out-of-county warrant. The officer asserted that Respondent complained about having to prosecute a defendant on an out-of-county warrant and told the officer that he was “wasting [the Magistrate’s] time.

Moreover, according to the officers, Respondent referred to them as “idiots” and stated that the officers of the Montgomery Police Department didn’t know how to do their jobs.”

According to the court, Respondent’s conduct toward the Montgomery Police Officers was discourteous, disrespectful, and indecorous. As a Magistrate with almost 37 years of experience, Respondent knew better than to hurl insults and a cup at the officers. To his credit, Respondent admitted his conduct and accepted responsibility. Thus, Commission admonishes the magistrate for his actions.

The Disposition states:

“Therefore, it is the decision of the Judicial Investigation Commission that Ward Harshbarger, II1, Magistrate of Kanawha County be disciplined by this Admonishment. Accordingly, the Judicial Investigation Commission hereby publicly admonishes Magistrate Harshbarger for his conduct as fully set forth in the matters asserted herein.”

The Magistrate’s Courtroom is located at 11 Court St, Charleston, WV 25301, and can be reached at 1 304-357-0400. His info can be found on ballotpedia.com. 

A copy of the original filing can be found here