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Judicial Hearing Board Recommends Public Reprimand, Fine For Kanawha Magistrate Harshbarger

Reported: May. 5, 2014 12:03 PM EDT
Updated: May. 5, 2014 3:37 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Fallon Pierson, Jeff Morris) – A judicial panel is recommending that a Kanawha County magistrate be publicly reprimanded and fined for ethics allegations stemming from his denial of a domestic violence petition against Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants.

Ward Harshbarger appeared Monday before a hearing examiner for the West Virginia Hearing Board.

The Judicial Investigation Commission alleges that Harshbarger violated several canons of the judicial code of conduct, saying that Harshbarger denied the petition before giving it a fair review. Plants’ ex-wife, Allison, sought the domestic violence protective order after she said her husband punished their child too harshly.

The commission also said Harshbarger discussed the petition with police officers who weren't involved in the case.

Under recommendations in an order by the West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board, Harshbarger would face a public censure and be fined $2,000. He also would have to pay the more than $3,700 cost of the investigation.

The recommendations go to the state Supreme Court, which will make a final ruling in the case.

At the hearing on Monday, Harshbarger said he knew he made a mistake and was very sorry.

"I am so sorry. I never meant to aggravate the petition,” Harshbarger said. “I should have never compromised the confidentiality of the paperwork."

Harshbarger has been a magistrate for 34 years, and has been disciplined twice before.



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