November 29, 2012
WILLIAMSON — According to the Mingo County Magistrate Court docket for Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 27 and 28, Magistrate Dee Sidebottom was scheduled to preside over criminal cases in the courtroom.
However, Magistrate Pam Newsome was on the bench in her place, after a motion was filed in Mingo County Circuit Court requesting that Sidebottom be disqualified from hearing cases that are litigated by the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorneys Office.
The motion for disqualification, filed by Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney C. Michael Sparks, is listed in its entirety, as follows:
Pursuant to Rule 1B of the WV Administrative Rules for the Magistrates Courts, Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney, C. Michael Sparks, hereby affirms in good faith as follows:
1. Magistrate Sidebottom has recently engaged in a course of increasingly unprofessional and paranoid misconduct in violation of Canon 2A, 2B, 3B(2), 3B(4), 3B(5) and 3B(8) of the WV Code of Judicial Conduct.
2. On November 27,2012, Magistrate Sidebottom refused to accept written plea agreements and obstinately proceeded to a preliminary hearing because I was unavailable to immediately sign a dismissal form in State of WV vs. Michael Cline (12F-522 and 523) and State of WV vs. Erica Stanley (12F-544 and 545). Magistrate Sidebottom was timely advised by my legal assistant that I was contemporaneously participating in an abuse and neglect proceeding. Magistrate Sidebottom is well aware by virtue of her considerable judicial experience that abuse and neglect proceedings take judicial priority over misdemeanor criminal proceedings. Nevertheless, Magistrate Sidebottom refused to wait until the abuse and neglect proceeding concluded and vaguely commented in open court about a prior newspaper comment attributed to me.
3. Magistrate Sidebottom recently dismissed several criminal cases with prejudice (meaning they cannot be reinstated or brought up again) simply because the assistant prosecuting attorney or investigating officer was late. While tardiness is inexcusable, the extraordinary sanction of dismissing a criminal case with prejudice epitomizes judicial impatience, prevents an ultimate adjudication on the merits and is inconsistent with the public interest in the fair administration of justice. Even more troublesome, Magistrate Sidebottom, in an effort to instigate public clamor, openly engaged in indecorous grandstanding on the bench by punitively criticizing the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and other law enforcement agencies in the presence of litigants and courtroom observers.
4. Magistrate Sidebottom habitually dismisses criminal cases if the investigating officer is unable to attend the pretrial conference even when the investigating officer has no testimonial or other responsibilities that could necessitate attendance. The primary purpose of pretrial conferences in Mingo County Magistrate Court is to facilitate pretrial dispositions, which can be accomplished without the attendance of the investigating officer.
5. Multiple law enforcement officers from multiple law enforcement agencies (Mingo County Sheriff’s Department, Williamson Police Department, Gilbert Police Department and Matewan Police Department) do not trust Magistrate Sidebottom and have requested that I seek disqualification of Magistrate Sidebottom due to previous manifestations of petty and purposeful bias and impropriety. Magistrate Sidebottom appears to have particular animosity toward Mingo County Sheriff-elect Eugene Crum, who assumes office on January 1, 2013.
6. Magistrate Sidebottom recently alleged that I was partly responsible for Magistrate Sidebottom’s recent third place finish among the incumbent magistrates in the general election.
7. (Redacted by the Court Order).
8. Magistrate Sidebottom has permitted interrelationship and political conflicts to negatively interfere with Magistrate Sidebottom’s ability to remain impartial while fulfilling judicial responsibilities.
Wherefore, I respectfully request the disqualification of Magistrate Deloris D. Sidebottom from all cases litigated by the Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
The motion was signed, C. Michael Sparks, Esq., Mingo County Prosecuting Attorney and was dated November 27, 2012.
In her answer to the motion for disqualification, Magistrate Sidebottom denied any and all statements listed in paragraphs 1-8. She further stated that she was served the above motion on Nov. 28 at 3:19 p.m. but was not in her office until 8:30 the following morning to actually receive the motion, and said that her detailed response will follow in a timely manner.
It is unclear at this time what steps will be taken regarding this motion, as well as to how the magistrate court dockets will be heard. The apparent choices would be to split the criminal cases between Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler and Pam Newsome and have Magistrate Sidebottom oversee civil cases until this matter is resolved, or a senior status magistrate may have to be appointed if the caseload becomes too heavy.
However; no decisions have been made at this time nor has Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury made a ruling on whether to approve or not approve the proposed motion made by Sparks.
More information on this motion to disqualify will be released to the public as it becomes available.