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Before hearing this week, Kanawha magistrate quits

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Magistrate Carol Fouty, who faces charges of violating judicial code of conduct, resigned after 26 years in her post.

Fouty faxed her resignation letter to West Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Menis Ketchum and mailed a letter to Secretary of State Natalie Tenant's office Friday, she said. Fouty will not seek re-election, she said.

Fouty, 75, wrote that she had health problems and wanted to spend more time with her family.

"I'm not well," Fouty said Sunday afternoon. "What time I have left, I think I need to spend it with my kids and grandkids."

Fouty has been suspended without pay since April. She faces charges from the Judicial Investigation Commission of the Supreme Court that she dismissed drug possession charges against a Charleston woman who later worked for her, according to previous Gazette reports.

The investigation began in February when police pulled over Melea Dawn Fisher of Charleston while she drove Fouty's car in Kanawha City. Fisher told police she was running errands for Fouty and appeared confused and disoriented, according to a criminal complaint from Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

Police allegedly found prescription drugs and marijuana in Fisher's purse and charged her with driving under the influence of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana.

According to court records, Fouty had dismissed a previous citation against Fisher for possession of drugs a month earlier.

Fouty has admitted to dismissing Fisher's charge but said she did not do it for favors. Fouty knew Fisher's parents, but she did not recognize the woman in court, she said.

"I did do wrong; I dismissed a girl's ticket without a prosecutor there," Fouty said. "I didn't even know the kid, but when she went to work for me she said, 'You know my mother.'"

Fouty said dismissing the ticket was a "dumb thing to do" that she probably would not have done if she had not been so busy the night of Fisher's hearing.

Other allegations, which Fouty has denied, include that she asked a man, Rodney P. Shaffer Jr., to do concrete work for her because he couldn't afford a lawyer after he was charged with receiving stolen property; that she improperly helped a man named Earl Wright arrange bail to get people out of jail; that she improperly handled surety bonds; and that she improperly recalled 24 warrants she had issued over an eight-month period.

Fouty was scheduled to have a hearing this week before the Judiciary Investigation Commission but said that, to her understanding, she will not have the hearing because she has resigned.

However, state Supreme Court spokeswomn April Harless said that as of Monday morning, Fouty's hearing was still scheduled for 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Judge Duke Bloom, chief circuit judge for Kanawha County, will swear in Fouty's replacement at 1:30 p.m. Monday, he said. He would not say Sunday who he would name to replace Fouty. By law, Fouty's replacement must be a Republican over the age of 18 with a high school education, Bloom said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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