“I’ve never seen anything like this before, so needless to say, I’m still researching the mountain of issues here…” – Attorney John H. Bryan
(Beaver, Raleigh County, West Virginia: 03/04/2020) – A shocking video posted online shows a family court judge taking the law into her own hands, and the property of a litigant as well.
Raleigh County Family Court Judge Louise Goldston presided over a divorce involving Matt Gibson and his ex-wife. After the divorce was finalized, the ex-wife filed for contempt to get personal property (DVD movies and pictures) from the home that she said were awarded to her during the divorce but she never received. During the hearing, Gibson stated that he was not sure where the items where or if he had them. Judge Goldston’s response was to immediately move the hearing out of the courtroom and into Gibson’s home.
Without a search warrant, and without a court order, Judge Goldston instructs Raleigh County deputies to search the home of litigant, Matt Gibson. Gibson recorded part of the incident using his cell phone.
The video footage shows Gibson asking for a search warrant, and then telling the judge,”You won’t get in my home without a search warrant.”
To which Judge Goldston replies,”Oh, yea I will!”
At another point in the video, Judge Goldston tells Gibson that if he does not allow her into the house, he will be arrested. Judge Goldstin along with three deputies, the ex-wife and her attorney then entered the house without a warrant, and without permission of the owner (Gibson) and began seizing items. Gibson was threatened with arrest if he raised any objections.
The Fourth Amendment, of the U.S. Constitution, protects against “unreasonable” searches and seizures by state or federal authorities, including judges and law enforcement: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Fourth Amendment
Gibson, who works as a federal law enforcement officer, felt the search was wrong. Gibson filmed the shocking events until Judge Goldston demanded that deputies take his phone (also shown in the video). Gibson was also told that he he continued to record the search that he would be arrested. Despite Judge Goldston’s efforts to stop filming, the video was later uploaded online by attorney John H. Bryan, and was featured in a local news report.
Judge Goldston has not made a public comment on the case, as it is an ongoing matter.
Family Court Judge Searches Home <—View video footage here
“So it’s not as if we didn’t know legal abuses occur, and that they can even happen with depressing regularity. We just didn’t think there’d be a time when legal abuse would seem like a regular part of everyday life…” – Doug Casey’s International Man
Judges have tremendous power to intervene and change the course of individual lives with their actions and rulings. When presiding over issues involving children, such as in family court, the decisions of a judge influence the development of our next generation, for good or bad. It is crucial that judges are competent, impartial and respect the rights of litigants. When a judge abuses their power and position, it undermines the justice system and creates mistrust in public officials.
Judges are public officials, and should be held accountable to the people they serve. Generally, judges are given immunity or are considered not liable for actions and decisions they make while acting within the boundaries of their profession, and while administering the law. However, immunity does not give a judge permission to take the law into their own hands, to use their position to further an agenda or to promote a personal interest. Complaints against out of control judges are being raised not only in family court but in other areas of the legal system, from litigants from every state in the nation. Common complaints include: bias, violating the rights of litigants, denial of due process, coercion/pressuring litigants, rude behavior and making decisions that result in harm to the litigant (or their children). Videos of judicial misconduct have been posted online for years, shocking the public. Despite public exposure of misconduct and public demands for judicial reform, little seems to change in the legal system. This video posted from Raleigh County, as well as the many other publicly posted videos, blogs, and testimonies (etc) of those who have had their lives negatively impacted by an out of control judge show that, clearly, more needs to be done. If not remedied, corruption will spread throughout the legal system, and seep into society.
Has there been a “never see anything like this before” moment in your family court case?
There have been many of those moments in my family court case. One of the most memorable being Judge Aldrich becoming angry when my attorney attempted to present evidence, he yelled at her from the bench. He then picked up an ink pen and threw it her. In another incident, Judge Aldrich called a recess. He stepped off the bench, still in robes, then went into the hallway to tell me/pressure ne that he has seen many cases like mine, and it’s best that I settle this case now because I will not like what will happen if he has to make a ruling. I faced a double edged sword that would cut any way it swung.
For Further Reading:
A Manifesto for Judicial Accountability in India (Well written and researched article that is also relevant to America, and other countries. Offers legal insights, case studies, and steps that can be taken to improve the judiciary).
Congress Must Increase Judicial Accountability and Transparency (A 2019 letter to Congress urging reform, includes five areas to address when crafting legistlation)