Brooke County Magistrate Accused of Mishandling Case

A Brooke County magistrate stands accused of mishandling a case involving alleged vicious dogs.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals has given Brooke County Magistrate Robin Snyder 30 days to respond to charges that she violated the state’s code of judicial conduct, including denying a defendant the right to appeal and altering court documents, that were filed by its judicial investigation commission.

Snyder has declined to comment on the matter. After Snyder’s response, a judicial hearing board may schedule a public hearing on the matter before making a recommendation to the state Supreme Court.

If found guilty of the charges, Snyder could be reprimanded, suspended without pay for up to a year, fined $5,000 or all of the above.

According to the judicial investigation commission, Krista Licht of Wellsburg appeared before Snyder on March 8 on a charge of keeping vicious dogs and asked for an attorney to be appointed to represent her.

The judicial investigation commission said Snyder told Licht she wasn’t entitled to a court-appointed attorney because “the matter was not being treated as a criminal matter despite the language contained in the summons.”

The judicial panel added Snyder didn’t continue the matter so Licht could seek private legal counsel and instead ruled her dogs were vicious and ordered them to be destroyed.

According to the commission, the dogs were destroyed later that day.

The panel said Snyder didn’t tell Licht she could seek an appeal through the state Supreme Court, though she had a right to do so and either Licht or her mother asked about it.

The panel said Snyder altered court documents after the fact by calling for the criminal case against Licht to be replaced by a civil case, then entered an order on March 15 “reflecting the dogs were ordered destroyed following the March 8 hearing.”

Under state law, a judge or magistrate may order dogs found to be vicious to be destroyed. But those ruled guilty of keeping a vicious dog have 20 days to appeal the ruling to a higher court.

The vicious dog charge was filed against Licht by the Brooke County Sheriff’s Department. A complaint filed by the department said two pit bull terriers owned by Licht had attacked or attempted to attack a neighbor’s dogs, a chicken and a duck on six occasions between September 2016 and March 2017.

According to the sheriff’s department, a neighbor reported the pit bulls attacked her two corgis before she moved them inside. Deputies said the corgis “didn’t sustain any major … injury during the attack.”

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