On Tuesday, February 28, 2023, the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia publicly admonished Philip Todd Gaujot, former magistrate in Monongalia County, for misconduct that involved showing intemperate behavior towards two law enforcement officers and making inappropriate comments on one of the court employees.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Philip Todd Gaujot,” and was brought by the Monongalia County Dog Wardens & Canine Adoption Center and Judicial Disciplinary Counsel, with case no. 84-2022, 133-2022.

The charge cited the Code of Judicial Conduct Rules1.1, 1.2, 1.3,2.1,2.2,2.3(B), 2.5(A) and (B),2.8(B), 2.9, and 3.1(A), (B), (C), (D) and (E) which states:

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 the judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.

The duties of the judicial office, as prescribed by law, shall take precedence over all of the judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities.

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

A judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon sex.

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

A judge shall cooperate with other judges and court officials in the administration of court business.

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.

Judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers concerning a pending or impending matter.

A judge shall not investigate facts in a matter independently and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that may properly be judicially noticed

Allegedly, the respondent committed the misconduct in part, for exhibiting intemperate behavior toward two law enforcement officers in different matters, commenting on a case pending before the court to the local newspaper, and soliciting letters of support in the disciplinary matter from three defense attorneys who regularly appeared in his court and one bail bondsman.

The first complaint happened around June 2022, wherein a dog warden was sent to pick up two dogs from a car in which they had allegedly been left for a long time on a hot summer day. A window was broken to retrieve the dogs, and a temperature gauge reportedly showed that the inside of the vehicle was 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The police signed a seizure notice, and the dogs were taken to the adoption center. In the afternoon of the same day, the person who owned the dogs and their daughter went to Monongalia County Magistrate Court to talk to the respondent about getting their dogs back. The respondent then contacted the prosecutor’s office and spoke to the officers.

The filing states:

“APA Nordstrom further said that Respondent “seemed to be working on behalf of the owner and her daughter) as opposed to doing what a magistrate does, advising them of how the process works and moving on. He seemed to be acting on their behalf.” APA Nordstrom advised Respondent that he would have to consult with APA Gabriella Mucciola and call him back.”

The filing continues:

Instead of scheduling a hearing, the Respondent called the Adoption Center and told them to immediately return the dogs to the owner. Director Johnson stated:

“He called and introduced himself and he said that he had.. . the owner of the dog and the mother’s daughter in his presence, and he wanted to know what he could do to get the dog back to the owner on that day. I told him that was not possible, that she was required to schedule a seizure hearing which would be scheduled in five days, and that would determine if there was enough evidence or lack of evidence, and that they would get to maybe take them home until the [final] hearing. And he said he didn’t want that. He said that he wanted the dogs to be able to go home today, that he got to see pictures on her phone, that the dogs wear clothes, that they sleep in a bed, and that these are good people.”

In the second complaint, the respondent made inappropriate comments against a deputy magistrate clerk. One specific matter involved the respondent getting mad at the former. Allegedly, there was a question about the bond so the paperwork was in the Magistrate Clerk’s office for a determination as to whether it could be processed in the manner ordered. But suddenly, the respondent called the deputy magistrate clerk from the courtroom and yelled at her to immediately get the paperwork.

The filing further states:

“Domestic violence orders are required to be uploaded immediately to the Domestic Violence Registry to protect the alleged victim. On October 24, 2022, the deputy magistrate clerk asked Respondent about a domestic violence order that he had failed to timely provide for upload. She jokingly said to him, “Tm going to smack your fingers if you don’t put that DV order in there.” Respondent didn’t directly respond to her but walked into his office and angrily and loudly said, “Fuck her” to his assistant. The deputy magistrate clerk heard the comment.”

The filing additionally notes:

“He’s just getting more irritated and more irritated. He said to me three times, “I am telling you, get the paperwork and get him out of here.” And finally when he started again, I Just- I said, “|Magistrate Gaujot), I can’t do that. That’s way beyond what I do up here. I can’t do it,” and I hung up. In the course of probably 30 seconds, he’s flying, I mean like he came out of nowhere. .. . All of [a] sudden, he is like inches from my window screaming at me, “Don’t you ever fucking hang that phone up. Do you know who I am? I’m telling you.” I mean his face was red, and his neck is like bulging. I mean was-I’ve not really seen anything like that to tell you the honest truth. I mean it was crazy. At that time, he – it scared me so much that I got up off my chair and the only thing I knew to do, I had to get away from him. So I walked in the back… . [an nd there I just broke down.”

Since the respondent has already resigned as a magistrate and agreed never again to seek judicial office in West Virginia by election or appointment, the JIC found that formal discipline was not necessary but that the respondent should still be sanctioned, so the latter publicly admonished the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“Therefore, it is the decision of the Judicial Investigation Commission that Phillip Todd Gaujot, former Magistrate of Monongalia County be disciplined by this Admonishment. Accordingly, the Judicial Investigation Commission hereby publicly admonishes Magistrate Gaujot for his conduct as fully set forth in the matter asserted herein.”

Judge Gaujot’s courtroom is located at Monongalia County Justice Center 75 High Street, Suite 33. Morgantown, WV, and can be reached at (304-284-7375). His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.