On Friday, August 4, 2023, the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia publicly admonished Wood County Magistrate Jody Purkey for intemperate behavior.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of the Honorable Jody Purkey,” and was brought by the Administrator Director of the Supreme Court of West Virginia, under Complaint No. 65-2023.

The charges cited Purkey’s violation of Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.5(B), and 2.8(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, 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 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, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.

The admonishment stemmed from a complaint accusing Purkey engaged in intemperate behavior towards a magistrate assistant during work hours. The incident in question occurred on April 7, 2023, when Magistrate Purkey was working in court handling arraignments and intake along with two magistrate assistants. Magistrate Assistant 1 worked for Purkey while the other (Magistrate Assistant 2) did not get along with Purkey. The assistants would take Purkey’s completed paperwork to upload into the computer system. At one point, Magistrate Assistant 2 took the paperwork from Purkey but returned it without uploading it or explaining why. When Purkey asked Assistant 1 what happened, she said Assistant 2 had not explained the issue.

Purkey then confronted Magistrate Assistant 2 about the paperwork and asked what was wrong with it, and the latter replied, “Figure it out yourself.” Purkey became angry, swore at her, threw the paperwork in the air, refused to take it back when offered, and kicked it before storming away.

The filing states:

“Approximately one hour later, Respondent apologized to Magistrate Assistant 2 for his behavior. The following Monday he left a card on Magistrate Assistant 2’s desk containing a written apology.”

In his written response and sworn statement, Purkey admitted that his outburst towards Assistant 2 was unacceptable conduct for a judge and breached the Code of Judicial Conduct. He expressed regret for his actions and assured the Commission that he would refrain from any further displays of intemperate behavior.

Accordingly, the Commission, after its review of the Complaint, Purkey’s admission, and other evidence obtained during the investigation of the matter, found probable cause that Purkey violated the Code of Judicial Conduct as charged.

The Commission concluded that formal discipline wasn’t necessary but decided on a written admonishment.

In admonishing Purkey, the Commission stated:

“Both Respondent and Magistrate Assistant 2 are at fault but as the old adage goes “two wrongs do not make a right.” As the individual in the supervisory position, Respondent should have led by example, ignored Magistrate Assistant 2’s insolent behavior, walked away to diffuse the situation, and reported her to her Magistrate or the Chief Circuit Judge. Instead, Respondent hurled expletives at Magistrate Assistant 2, threw the paperwork, and kicked at it like an errant child. By doing so, he clearly called into question the integrity of the judicial system as a whole and is therefore admonished for his behavior.”

The Magistrate’s courtroom is located at 401 Second Street, Suite 12 Parkersburg in West Virginia, and can be reached at 304-422-3822.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.