March 11, 2012
Kanawha magistrate's actions again a subject of scrutiny

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County Magistrate Carol Fouty, who is under scrutiny for dismissing a drug citation for a woman who works for her, has been in trouble with state court officials before.

Fouty has been in the public spotlight since Feb. 28, when Melea Dawn Fisher, 30, of Charleston was pulled over in Kanawha City driving Fouty's car. Fisher told police she was running errands for the magistrate, but appeared confused and disoriented, according to a criminal complaint on file in Kanawha County Magistrate Court.

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

Court records show that Fouty dismissed an earlier citation for possession of drugs for Fisher on Jan. 30.

"I have never dismissed tickets in exchange for favors," Fouty said Wednesday. "I've been raked over the coals by the media before, but not like this."

But records show that Fouty has been in trouble with officials for the state Supreme Court before. In 2010, a complaint was filed with the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia, alleging that Fouty improperly helped write a peace bond for a friend.

The Judicial Investigation Commission was set up by the Supreme Court to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct by judges.

According to the commission's findings, Fouty approved peace bonds for Norma Jean Saunders, Brian Miller and Dennis Rhodes in November 2009. A peace bond is a kind of court order that requires a person to put up a sum of money as a guarantee that they will not bother another person. If they violate the terms of the bond, they forfeit the money and can be arrested.

Fouty said the peace bonds were the result of a property dispute between Norma Jean Saunders and one of Saunders' relatives. She said Saunders, Miller and Rhodes came to her to ask her what to do about the dispute, and Fouty advised them the best she could do was a peace bond.

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