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24947 - In the Matter of Wilder

Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 19
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court

In the Matter of George

Wilder, Lake City

Municipal Judge, Respondent.

Opinion No. 24947

Submitted May 11, 1999 - Filed June 1, 1999

PUBLIC REPRIMAND

Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Senior

Assistant Attorney General James G. Bogle, Jr., both

of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

G. LaVue Murdaugh, of Lake City, for respondent.





PER CURIAM: In this judicial grievance proceeding,

respondent admits that he has committed ethical violations and consents to

a public reprimand. We accept respondent's admission and publicly

reprimand him.





The Victoria Thomas Matter





In March 1996, Sherlene Daniels swore out a complaint against

Victoria Thomas alleging child abuse of Daniels' child. Respondent had

Daniels sign a blank arrest warrant and had his Clerk fill in the information

on the affidavit portion of the warrant.





Respondent was personally acquainted with Thomas through

other legal proceedings and through Thomas' husband, a Lake City Police

officer.



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IN THE MATTER OF WILDER





Victoria Thomas appeared before respondent and, in his

presence, Thomas completed a Request for Dismissal of Prosecution of

Daniels' warrant. Respondent witnessed Thomas forge Daniels' signature to

the document. Respondent and his Clerk then signed as witnesses.





After a complaint was made regarding the failure to issue the

warrant, respondent signed and issued an arrest warrant containing the

following statement: "Affiant states found (sic) that defendant did not beat

her child and she signed Request for Dismissal on March 6, 1996."





During an investigation into the matter by the State Law

Enforcement Division (SLED), respondent told investigators that he did not

know who signed the dismissal request but thought that it was Daniels; that

he did not know Thomas but knew that Thomas did not sign the dismissal

request; and he was not present when the dismissal request was signed. In

pertinent part, the investigation concluded in Thomas pleading guilty to

forgery.





The Gambling Funds Matter



In April 1997, Roy Lee McFadden was arrested by the Lake City

Police Department for possession of gambling paraphernalia. The police

seized $1,456.74, $526.00 of which was seized directly from the person of

McFadden.





Without consent of the police department and prior to trial,

respondent ordered the return of $526.00 to McFadden.







McFadden pled guilty to the possession charge before

respondent. Respondent did not recuse himself and failed to disclose on the

record that McFadden was a fellow masonic lodge member.





The David Battle Matter





In June 1997, David Battle was arrested by Lake City police on

two charges of assault on a police officer; disorderly conduct; and resisting

arrest. The resisting arrest and assault charges were General Sessions

offenses. Respondent not only released Battle from custody but conducted a

trial on the General Sessions offenses despite the fact that he did not have



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IN THE MATTER OF WILDER





jurisdiction.







The Danny McCutcheon Matter



In May 1998, Danny McCutcheon and two others were arrested

by Lake City police on charges of assault on a police officer, threatening a

police officer or school official, trespass, and disturbing a school.





McCutcheon was a Lake City High School senior planning to

leave on a trip to the Bahamas on the very day he was arrested.

McCutcheon's mother contacted respondent. As a result, respondent

telephoned the jail and authorized the release of McCutcheon without notice

to or consent from the police department. When McCutcheon returned from

his trip, he presented himself to the police, was served with an arrest

warrant, and held pending bail.





Failure to Respond to an Investigation



In April 1998, respondent was served with notice of investigation

of the Barr Matter, the SLED Agent Bartell Matter, and the Wright Matter.

Respondent only filed a response to the Barr Matter.







Making a False Statement During an Investigation



Pursuant to a disciplinary investigation, a hearing was

convened. Respondent, under oath, gave false testimony regarding the

Victoria Thomas Matter.





Conclusion



At the time respondent committed these acts, he was in violation

of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 501, SCACR, specifically Canon 1

(failure to establish, maintain, and enforce high standards of conduct to

preserve the independence and integrity of the judiciary); Canon 2(A) (failing

to respect and comply with the law, and failure to conduct himself in a

manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of

the judiciary); Canon2(B) (allowing his family, social, or other relationships

to influence his judicial conduct and judgment, lending the prestige of his

office to advance the private interests of another, and conveying or

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IN THE MATTER OF WILDER







permitting others to convey the impression that they are in a special position

to influence him); Canon 3(A)(1) (failure to be faithful to the law and

maintain professional competence in it); Canon 3(B)(5) (failure to perform

judicial duties without bias or prejudice); Canon 3(B)(7) (initiating,

permitting or considering ex parte communications, or considering other

communications made to him outside the presence of the parties concerning

a pending proceeding; Canon 3(C)(1)(a) (failure to disqualify himself in a

proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,

including where he had a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party);1 and

Rule 502(7)(a) of the Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement (failure to

respond to an inquiry from a disciplinary board and violation of the Code of

Judicial Conduct).2





Respondent resigned his position on December 31, 1998. For this

reason, we publically reprimand respondent, the maximum sanction we may

impose. In addition, respondent shall not seek future appointment to any

judicial office within the unified judicial system of South Carolina unless

authorized by this Court.





PUBLIC REPRIMAND.




1 The Code of Judicial Conduct has been revised since the time some of

the misconduct occurred. Those revisions became effective October 1, 1996.

The canons violated by respondent remain a part of the revised code although

some bear different numbers.





2 The Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 502, SCACR,

became effective January 1, 1997, replacing the Rule on Judicial Discipline

and Standards.

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