The Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia publicly admonished Matthew Jeffries, Magistrate of Fayette County, on Tuesday, August 16, 2022. The case is styled as ‘In the Matter of Magistrate Jeffries,’ with case number #67-2022.

The judge was charged with violating Rules 1.1, 1.2, 4.l(A)(3) and 4.2(A)(l) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, 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.

Except as permitted by law, or by Rules 4.2, 4.3, and 4.4, a judge or a judicial candidate shall not publicly endorse or oppose a candidate for any public office. 

A judge or candidate subject to public election shall act at all times in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

The complainant, former Fayette County Magistrate Shawn L. Campbell, alleged that during the May 2022 election, Jeffries improperly wore a law enforcement uniform in campaign advertisements and social media posts. The complaint also alleged that Jeffries created the appearance that he was openly endorsing other candidates for non-judicial positions in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The commission conducted an investigation and asked Jeffries to reply to the allegations. The respondent submitted his response in an undated letter.

The respondent stated:

“I was a first-time candidate for public office in the 2022 Primary Election and had no knowledge of the rules and regulations prohibiting candidates from wearing a uniform in advertisements promoting their candidacy. Obviously, had I known of this prohibition during my campaign, I would have immediately discontinued the use of such depiction of myself in uniform. At no time during my campaign did I represent or imply in any way that my former professional experience as a law enforcement officer would impact or color my fair and independent judgment as a magistrate. To the contrary, my consistent message to the voters during my campaign was that I would always faithfully discharge the duties and responsibilities of this office in a fair and impartial manner.”

Regarding the photo with the campaign posters of non-judicial candidates, the respondent said:

“During [a meet and greet event held at Ace Adventures in Minden], I noticed a few campaign posters for other candidates placed on a table within the meeting room. I was not involved in the placement of these signs, nor do I think that it is reasonable to conclude that these signs represented an endorsement of these or any other candidate for public office.”

In a 6-0 vote, the commission determined that probable cause does exist in the complaint and that Jeffries violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The order reads:

“… it is the decision of the Judicial Investigation Commission that the Honorable Matthew Jeffries, Magistrate of Fayette County, be disciplined. Accordingly, the Judicial Investigation Commission hereby publicly admonishes Magistrate Jeffries for his conduct as fully set forth in the matters asserted herein and warns him to refrain from engaging in similar behavior in the future.”

The Judge’s Courtroom is at 100 Church Street, in Fayetteville, and can be reached at 304-574-4279.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.