This case is before this Court upon the March 4, 2005, Motion to Reinstate with Back pay of Magistrate William Tom Toler, Magistrate for Wayne County. Magistrate Toler was previously suspended without pay from his position as Magistrate by this Court, following his criminal indictment on several counts, pursuant to Rule 2.14(d)(1) of the West Virginia Rules of Judicial Disciplinary Procedure. (See footnote 1) Magistrate Toler has since been acquitted of all criminal charges and now seeks to be reinstated with back pay to his position as Magistrate, a position to which he was re-elected in November of 2004. The Judicial Investigation Commission objects to the Motion because it has undertaken, but not yet completed, its own investigation of Magistrate Toler's fitness to sit as Magistrate.
This Court has before it the Motion to Reinstate with Back pay, the Reply of the Judicial Investigation Commission, the briefs of the parties and all matters of record. Following the arguments of the parties and a review of the record herein, this Court finds that existing case law supports the Judicial Investigation Commission's contention that it should be allowed to conclude its investigation before this Court decides whether to reinstate Magistrate Toler. Accordingly, this Court, subject to the time limitation herein, will hold the March 4, 2005, Motion to Reinstate with Back pay in abeyance pending the outcome of the investigation.
An investigation was launched by the Judicial Investigation Commission, and formal charges were filed with the Clerk of the Court on August 5, 2004. Specifically, the formal charges alleged that Magistrate Toler engaged in conduct which violated Canon 1, Canon 2A and B, Canon 3A and B(2) of the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct. (See footnote 2) Magistrate Toler filed a response denying the formal charges on September 15, 2004, and requesting that the charges be dismissed.
On November 3, 2004, a second indictment was returned against Magistrate Toler in the Circuit Court of Wayne County. This indictment restated all of the original charges and added two more charges of felony sexual abuse. The new charges alleged that the felonious activity occurred during a period prior to Magistrate Toler's suspension. In the meantime, Magistrate Toler was re-elected to his position as a Magistrate for Wayne County.
The Judicial Disciplinary Counsel reported the new indictment as well as Magistrate Toler's re-election to this Court on November 6, 2004. This Court issued an Order on November 12, 2004, finding probable cause and suspending Magistrate Toler without pay immediately upon his taking the oath of office.
On February 24, 2005, Magistrate Toler was
acquitted on all counts of the indictments; and on March 4, 2005, he moved for
this Court to reinstate him to his former position with back pay, arguing that
all the matters raised in the judicial ethics complaint were litigated in the
criminal action for which Magistrate Toler was acquitted. The Commission initially
informed the Court that it had no objection to the motion to reinstate, but later
objected pointing out that the Judicial Hearing Board is still investigating
the matter. Accordingly, the Court now considers Magistrate Toler's motion for reinstatement
with back pay and the Commission's objection to the motion.
Magistrate Toler cites Grubb to support his argument that this Court should lift the suspension now as he has been acquitted in his criminal trial. At the same time, the Commission cites Grubb to argue that this Court should delay a decision on the suspension pending the outcome of the judicial disciplinary proceeding. Certainly, either reading of Grubb is a fair interpretation of the Court's holding. However, this Court must also consider other important aspects to this case, such as the public's confidence in the honor, integrity, dignity, and efficiency of the justice system.
Magistrate Toler's credibility and fitness to serve as an officer of the court were called into question when he was indicted by the grand jury of Wayne County. This Court agrees with the Commission that those concerns do not simply disappear now that Magistrate Toler has been acquitted in a criminal proceeding. On the contrary, Magistrate Toler's very indictment raised concerns that have yet to be investigated because the Commission's independent investigation of this matter was ordered by this Court to be held in abeyance pending the outcome of Magistrate Toler's criminal trial. Therefore, no evidence has yet been presented in order to make a proper record for this Court to evaluate whether Magistrate Toler should now be returned to his duties. When the record in an action or suit is such that an appellate court can not in justice determine the judgment that should be finally rendered, the case should be remanded to the trial court for further development. Syl. Pt. 2, South Side Lumber Co. v. Stone Construction Co., 151 W.Va. 439, 152 S.E.2d 721 (1967); Syl., Blevins v. May, 158 W.Va. 531, 212 S.E.2d 85 (1975); Syl. Pt. 3, Heydinger v. Adkins, 178 W.Va. 463, 360 S.E.2d 240 (1987). In this case, that trial court is the Judicial Hearing Board, and the development of the record must come from a full hearing before that Board.
Until a full hearing is held, this Court cannot properly make a determination of the merits of Magistrate Toler's Motion and the Commission's objection to it. That is, until then, this Court cannot properly determine whether Magistrate Toler is fit to return to his position as Magistrate for Wayne County. The purpose of judicial disciplinary proceedings is the preservation and enhancement of public confidence in the honor, integrity, dignity, and efficiency of the members of the judiciary and the system of justice. Syl., Matter of Gorby, 176 W.Va. 16, 339 S.E.2d 702 (1985); Syl. Pt. 1, Matter of Phalen, 197 W.Va. 235, 475 S.E.2d 327 (1996); Syl., Matter of Reese, 201 W.Va. 177, 495 S.E.2d 548 (1997). This Court will not retreat from its duty to the justice system.
The Clerk of the Court is directed to issue the mandate in this case forthwith.
Motion to reinstate with back pay held in abeyance.