THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
In the Matter of George
Wilder, Lake City
Municipal Judge, Respondent.
Opinion No. 24947
Submitted May 11, 1999 - Filed June 1, 1999
Attorney General Charles M. Condon and Senior
Assistant Attorney General James G. Bogle, Jr., both
of Columbia, for the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
G. LaVue Murdaugh, of Lake City, for respondent.
PER CURIAM: In this judicial grievance proceeding,
respondent admits that he has committed ethical violations and consents to
a public reprimand. We accept respondent's admission and publicly
The Victoria Thomas Matter
In March 1996, Sherlene Daniels swore out a complaint against
Victoria Thomas alleging child abuse of Daniels' child. Respondent had
Daniels sign a blank arrest warrant and had his Clerk fill in the information
on the affidavit portion of the warrant.
Respondent was personally acquainted with Thomas through
other legal proceedings and through Thomas' husband, a Lake City Police
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Victoria Thomas appeared before respondent and, in his
presence, Thomas completed a Request for Dismissal of Prosecution of
Daniels' warrant. Respondent witnessed Thomas forge Daniels' signature to
the document. Respondent and his Clerk then signed as witnesses.
After a complaint was made regarding the failure to issue the
warrant, respondent signed and issued an arrest warrant containing the
following statement: "Affiant states found (sic) that defendant did not beat
her child and she signed Request for Dismissal on March 6, 1996."
During an investigation into the matter by the State Law
Enforcement Division (SLED), respondent told investigators that he did not
know who signed the dismissal request but thought that it was Daniels; that
he did not know Thomas but knew that Thomas did not sign the dismissal
request; and he was not present when the dismissal request was signed. In
pertinent part, the investigation concluded in Thomas pleading guilty to
The Gambling Funds Matter
In April 1997, Roy Lee McFadden was arrested by the Lake City
Police Department for possession of gambling paraphernalia. The police
seized $1,456.74, $526.00 of which was seized directly from the person of
Without consent of the police department and prior to trial,
respondent ordered the return of $526.00 to McFadden.
McFadden pled guilty to the possession charge before
respondent. Respondent did not recuse himself and failed to disclose on the
record that McFadden was a fellow masonic lodge member.
The David Battle Matter
In June 1997, David Battle was arrested by Lake City police on
two charges of assault on a police officer; disorderly conduct; and resisting
arrest. The resisting arrest and assault charges were General Sessions
offenses. Respondent not only released Battle from custody but conducted a
trial on the General Sessions offenses despite the fact that he did not have
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The Danny McCutcheon Matter
In May 1998, Danny McCutcheon and two others were arrested
by Lake City police on charges of assault on a police officer, threatening a
police officer or school official, trespass, and disturbing a school.
McCutcheon was a Lake City High School senior planning to
leave on a trip to the Bahamas on the very day he was arrested.
McCutcheon's mother contacted respondent. As a result, respondent
telephoned the jail and authorized the release of McCutcheon without notice
to or consent from the police department. When McCutcheon returned from
his trip, he presented himself to the police, was served with an arrest
warrant, and held pending bail.
Failure to Respond to an Investigation
In April 1998, respondent was served with notice of investigation
of the Barr Matter, the SLED Agent Bartell Matter, and the Wright Matter.
Respondent only filed a response to the Barr Matter.
Making a False Statement During an Investigation
Pursuant to a disciplinary investigation, a hearing was
convened. Respondent, under oath, gave false testimony regarding the
Victoria Thomas Matter.
At the time respondent committed these acts, he was in violation
of the Code of Judicial Conduct, Rule 501, SCACR, specifically Canon 1
(failure to establish, maintain, and enforce high standards of conduct to
preserve the independence and integrity of the judiciary); Canon 2(A) (failing
to respect and comply with the law, and failure to conduct himself in a
manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of
the judiciary); Canon2(B) (allowing his family, social, or other relationships
to influence his judicial conduct and judgment, lending the prestige of his
office to advance the private interests of another, and conveying or
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permitting others to convey the impression that they are in a special position
to influence him); Canon 3(A)(1) (failure to be faithful to the law and
maintain professional competence in it); Canon 3(B)(5) (failure to perform
judicial duties without bias or prejudice); Canon 3(B)(7) (initiating,
permitting or considering ex parte communications, or considering other
communications made to him outside the presence of the parties concerning
a pending proceeding; Canon 3(C)(1)(a) (failure to disqualify himself in a
proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned,
including where he had a personal bias or prejudice concerning a party);1 and
Rule 502(7)(a) of the Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement (failure to
respond to an inquiry from a disciplinary board and violation of the Code of
Respondent resigned his position on December 31, 1998. For this
reason, we publically reprimand respondent, the maximum sanction we may
impose. In addition, respondent shall not seek future appointment to any
judicial office within the unified judicial system of South Carolina unless
authorized by this Court.
1 The Code of Judicial Conduct has been revised since the time some of
the misconduct occurred. Those revisions became effective October 1, 1996.
The canons violated by respondent remain a part of the revised code although
some bear different numbers.
2 The Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 502, SCACR,
became effective January 1, 1997, replacing the Rule on Judicial Discipline