Tuesday, October 3, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Gal Pal of Judge’s Ex Cries Foul Over Arrest

(CN) - A West Virginia family court judge falsely claimed that her ex-husband's girlfriend wanted to harm her and had the woman arrested on charges, later dismissed, of violating a protective order, a lawsuit filed by the girlfriend claims.

In the suit, which was filed in the Clarksburg, W. Va., Federal Court, Heather Evans says Marion County Family Court Judge Amy Swisher obtained a temporary personal safety order her on February 28, 2014.

The complaint doesn't provide any details on what precipitated this action, but says the chief judge of the Marion County circuit court disqualified all magistrates under his supervision from presiding over the hearing on the order and transferred the case to neighboring Monogalia County.

Evans claims that during the hearing on the protective order, Judge Swisher "became profane and disruptive," the complaint says.

Magistrate Judge Darris Summers granted the personal safety order, saying it was to remain in effect for one year, but also stating that it would remain in effect until March 18, 2014 - in effect, the same day it was issued, Evan says.

Summers then explained the order meant Evans had to stay away from Judge Swisher's place of "employment, school, and residence." The only exception was if Evans had legitimate business at the Marion County Courthouse.

In that case, the complaint says, Evans could not only enter the courthouse, but had permission to visit the floor that Judge Swisher's office is on.

Two weeks later, a post-divorce hearing was held in Charleston, W.Va., having also been removed from Marion County.

Judge Swisher appeared in person, while her ex-husband appeared by telephone. At the time, the complaint says, Swisher's ex-husband owed her a $100 property payment. Evans says she and Swisher's ex-husband drove to the Marion County courthouse, but that they informed none of Swisher's staff was in. With that, they left.

But later that day, after Judge Swisher returned to her office, a deputy sheriff that had been on duty at the courthouse, informed her that her ex-husband and an unnamed female had been by to leave a payment for her.

Judge Swisher then contacted the courthouse's IT manager and asked to review the videotape from her office, which showed her ex-husband walking toward her office door while the plaintiff sat at a nearby table, rummaging through her purse, the complaint says.

After viewing the surveillance tape, Swisher told the state judicial investigation commission that she had been fearful that "they were coming after me," Evans says.

The plaintiff alleges Swisher claimed her ex-husband had reached a "blow-up point" during the hearing earlier that day.

Evans says this wasn't true, and was later disproved by the commission's review of the hearing. The commission found the ex-husband remained calm throughout the proceeding, the complaint says.

Unaware that the protection order had expired and that the magistrate had given the plaintiff oral orders allowing her to be on the third floor where Judge Swisher's office was in order to perform business, the police chief and chief prosecutor sought a warrant for the plaintiff's arrest.

Evans says the deputy sent to arrest her, defendant Donald Neal, had long held a personal grudge against her, and had once told Judge Swisher's ex-husband he "would get" the plaintiff and her entire family one day.

She claims this animosity stemmed from Swisher's ex-husband having been involved -- several years earlier -- in getting Neal suspended from his job for misconduct.

"Neal is also a longtime friend and frequent social companion of Judge Swisher," Evans says.

The magistrate judge on duty at the time refused to grant the arrest warrant, stating that the plaintiff's presence at the courthouse that day did not constitute a threat against Judge Swisher, Evans says.

She claims this led Judge Swisher and the deputy to wait for the night magistrate, who issued the arrest warrant, but later said he'd never been told of the parameters Summers had set for Evans.

Evans says as a result of these activities, she was wrongly arrested, detained over night, and allowed to leave only after she posted $1,000 bond.

She says a magistrate judge later dismissed the charges, finding that since Judge Swisher was in Charleston at the time of Evan's visit to the courthouse, no possible threat had been posed to her.

Evans seeks $100,000 damages on claims of civil rights violations, malicious prosecution, abuse of process, false imprisonment, negligence, conspiracy, imputation of conduct, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

She is represented by Richard Robb of South Charleston, W. Va.

Categories / Uncategorized

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.