West Virginia’s highest court has disciplined an attorney elected circuit judge last fall for using campaign fliers falsely claiming his opponent partied with President Barack Obama while coal miners lost jobs.
The Supreme Court agreed with the Judicial Hearing Board that Stephen Callaghan should be disciplined, imposing an even more severe penalty of two-year judicial suspension without pay and $15,000 in fines.
Callaghan argued the board lacks jurisdiction because he wasn’t a judge at the time, his statements were protected by the First Amendment and the penalties are excessive.
Callaghan, a Summersville lawyer, defeated longtime Nicholas County Circuit Judge Gary Johnson by 220 votes in May.
The direct-mail flier’s manipulated photographs showed Johnson and Obama together, saying they partied at the White House while hundreds of miners lost their jobs.