W.Va. Supreme Court Suspends Ohio County Magistrate Janine Varner
Varner Suspended As Magistrate
By JOSELYN KING
WHEELING — Ohio County Magistrate Janine Varner — on the job for just six weeks — was suspended without pay Wednesday by an order of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Varner’s attorney, Teresa Toriseva, said Varner was suspended because she did not complete high school, which is required of those serving as magistrate under West Virginia law.
“An issue has arisen regarding magistrate Varner’s educational background,” Toriseva said in a released statement. “Ms. Varner left high school before completing all credit hours required to graduate. She then transitioned to a vocational education program. She completed this vocational program and was issued a certificate of completion 35 years ago.
“It is our position that under current West Virginia law, Magistrate Varner meets the qualifications. However, Ms. Varner understands her high public duty to remove any questions as to those qualifications. To remove all doubt or question, she is taking the GED test. Ms. Varner expects to and hopes to have a long career in service to the residents of Ohio County by serving as an Ohio County Magistrate.”
Varner, a native of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, was an employee of the Toriseva Law Office before being appointed and sworn in as magistrate on Aug. 5. She has worked 15 years in the local court system, mostly with the Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio County Circuit Clerk’s Office.
Varner has lived in Wheeling since 1992.
Magistrate Joe Roxby said Wednesday afternoon it was “improper to comment” regarding the suspension of a fellow magistrate. He did say Senior Status Magistrate Carl “Worthy” Paul has been recalled to serve as magistrate, and his service becomes effective today.
The Supreme Court order states Varner allegedly “has engaged or is currently engaged in a serious violation of the code of judicial conduct.”
The finding came from Judicial Disciplinary Counsel Teresa A. Tarr, who on Monday presented her information to the court.
The court, in its order, sealed the reason for the suspension “until such time as a formal statement of charges has been filed and duly served upon the respondent.” The matter has now been turned over to the state’s Judicial Investigation Commission for the filing of formal charges.
Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy, when contacted, said she could not elaborate on Varner’s alleged violation.
According to the court’s order, “pursuant to Rule 2.14(d)(2) of the Rules of Judicial Disciplinary Procedure, it is ordered that the respondent, Janine Lea Varner, shall be, and she hereby is, suspended without pay, and is prohibited from hearing any further civil or criminal matter or performing any other judicial functions during the pendency of the disciplinary matter.”
Varner can request a hearing on her suspension, and has 30 days to do so, starting from the date of the order, which was dated Wednesday.
She was sworn in last month to fill the term of former magistrate Harry Radcliffe, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court to a Klein tax conspiracy.