BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – UPDATE: On Thursday, we ran a story about a Raleigh County man involved in a contempt case after a finalized divorce whose recording of a family court judge went viral.
Matt Gibson claimed the search of his home was against his 4th Amendment rights. Because the judge and the opposing attorney cannot comment on ongoing litigation, local family attorney Robert Dunlap is speaking out saying Judge Louise Goldston was doing her job and doing it legally.
“What I think is most important to know about this is when you see a video on YouTube, when you see a Terry search, when you see something and immediately it doesn’t match what we’ve always seen on television that doesn’t make it wrong,” he said. “Because they didn’t do it that way on Law and Order doesn’t mean that a judge that has decades of experience is breaking the law.”
The video Dunlap is referring to can be found on YouTube as it shows Gibson, one party in this case, asking for a warrant when Raleigh County Family Court Judge Goldston shows up on his property to continue a contempt hearing to retrieve items the ex-wife has requested in a divorce agreement.
In legal terms, this is called a viewing.
“And when people see a family court judge doing a viewing it would seem very concerning. Realistically, there is a West Virginia Rule of Civil Procedure. Rule 34. People can look it up about the production of documents, things and entry upon inspection or other purposes,” Dunlap said.
This also allows the judge to order the deputies and the other party to claim items from the home like pictures to duplicate.
While some might ask, including Gibson himself, how she was able to do this without a warrant, it is all about what was listed as an asset in the divorce as civil court differs from criminal.
“In the event that marital monies went into the home even if it was just in one person’s name, it still could be construed as marital property so the notion that someone went into just his house isn’t really one that the judge or the attorneys could defend because they can’t go on the record and disclose what is, in fact, confidential in this case,” Dunlap said.
Another concern from the video was the judge ordering Gibson’s phone to be taken.
This is also within the law. Rule 8 of Rules and Practice and Procedure by Family Court says no person is permitted to record any court proceedings and this applies whether they are in a courtroom or in someone’s yard or home where a viewing would take place.
Dunlap also pointed out that the communication that occurred between Gibson and the ex-wife’s attorney the night before the hearing was also legal, as Gibson is representing himself.
BEAVER, WV (WOAY) – We had several people reach out to us about a video posted by a local attorney with over 20,000 views.
The video shows Raleigh County Family Court Judge Louise Goldston coming to a home on March 4 in Beaver to do a hearing on a contempt case following a finalized divorce.
She also began going through the home without a warrant, and now the legality of it is being questioned.
Judge Goldston is presiding over a case involving Matt Gibson and his ex-wife.
The ex-wife filed a contempt after the divorce was finalized to get more of the items they agreed upon like DVDs and pictures.
When Gibson stated in the courtroom that he wasn’t sure if he had them or wasn’t sure where they were, the judge decided to take the hearing to his home and began searching through it with Raleigh County deputies and his ex-wife.
Gibson, a federal agent himself, says it felt wrong and that is why he began recording as the judge and the officers pulled up.
Gibson said he was told in court he had ten minutes to get back home before they were coming.
He said the judge along with three police officers, his ex-wife and her attorney entered the home without a warrant and began seizing items threatening arrest if he did not comply.
“They seized the photos off the wall. They searched this closet,” he said. “They came through here to the kitchen. They searched the cabinets in here.”
His phone was taken outside of the home as he was caught recording which can also be seen in the video.
Gibson still submitted what he had recorded to local attorney John Bryan who then put it up on YouTube.
He said he handles lots of illegal search and seizure cases but never one like this.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever really heard that my house was illegally searched by a judge and the reason for that is because that’s not what judges do. Judges do not search houses. Judges do not search anything,” Bryan said.
Bryan said he has not been able to find other cases in his research dealing with this where this has happened before, but he believes it is in strong violation against the 4th Amendment.
“The information that I have as of right now is that there was no warrant and there wasn’t consent you can see that from the video. And I’m unaware of any information as to any exigency existing. I also haven’t found any court order, any sort of seizure order.”
Bryan also believes that there could be some 1st Amendment violations after he was asked to turn his phone off as he was recording on his own property.
Bryan also expressed concern over the fact that Gibson received a call from his ex wife’s attorney, Kyle Lusk, the day before, offering a $5,000 settlement.
In the recorded voicemail, Lusk says he was asked to do that by the court but Bryan believes that that was in violation of “ex parte communication,” which is why he also put the voicemail online.
Bryan said he wanted to put the all of this out to shine light on this as he believes his client is not alone in what he’s gone through.
“If we allow the integrity of the judicial system to be bent in any way, it’s just a ripple effect. It’s a slippery slope. The courts are nothing without their legitimacy.”
We reached out to Judge Goldston who cannot comment on ongoing litigation. We also reached out Kyle Lusk who said he also couldn’t comment but did say there was a contempt hearing and Gibson failed to comply.
We will update this story as more information becomes available. For now, Bryan is gathering evidence for this case.