Former Logan County Ninth Circuit Family Court Jason Harwood has been publicly admonished by the Judicial Investigation Counsel (JIC) for allegedly carrying out a sexual relationship with his secretary, providing her with legal advice and using his position to affect legal outcomes for her friends.
The admonishment explains the process by which Harwood was forced to resign as, “… a July 1, 2015 agreement between Judicial Disciplinary Counsel and…[Harwood], the JIC found probably cause that Judge Harwood violated Canons…. The Commission further found that formal disciplinary action was not essential since…[Harwood] agreed to resign his position as Family Court Judge and never again seek judicial office in West Virginia.”
Before he donned the robes of a Family Court judge, Harwood requested a women that the admonishment refers to as, “TFM,” work for him as his secretary and clerk. The admonishment states that after TFM came into Harwood’s employ, they began a sexual relationship. In 2011, Harwood was able to get TFM a promotion to the office of the Family Court Case Coordinator. TFM would serve in the office of Family Court Case Coordinator until March 2011.
Nonetheless the fact that TFM left Harwood’s office in 2011, the pair continued to communicate, and TFM allegedly sought Harwood’s influence and advice in several legal matters. The admonishment quotes a Feb. 2012 email exchange between Harwood and TFM where TFM allegedly sought legal outcomes for her friend referred to as “LB.” In that exchange, TFM is quoted as saying, “[She] had a hearing in front of you on behalf of her daughter about a month ago? Anyway, the boy broke her nose last week and she is having surgery today.” In that same exchange, Harwood is quoted as saying, “I remember LB, sure. That little…needs to be charged and put in jail since he’s such a big tough guy.”
A March 2012 communication between Harwood and TFM is also quoted in the admonishment where TFM seemingly seeks a favorable outcome for her friends referred to as, “KH,” and, “SB” . TFM is quoted as saying, “Wanted to give you a heads up. KH has a hearing in front of you in April….Anyway she now lives with SB. I assume you remember him. He is a pretty big vote getter. He is my friend…” Harwood is quoted as responding to that message by saying, “Thanks. I know SB. I’ll care of it. Anything for you.”
Another communication between Harwood and what the admonishment reports to be a friend of his from junior high school is quoted by the JIC in their admonishment. In this communication from Nov. 2013, Harwood provides a person referred to as HLYT with legal advise saying, “I would not respond and keep this close to my vest. They may offer a compromise more to your liking…”
The admonishment from the JIC alleges that Harwood violated both the official canon of the West Virginia Supreme Court and his own office policies. The admonishment says, “Judge Harwood’s decision to engage in a sexual relationship with his secretary was ill-conceived and unacceptable. As is the situation with this complaint, improper sexual relationships can form the basis of sexual harassment lawsuits. The allegations in those lawsuits frequently become public knowledge and those allegations alone can destroy the public’s confidence in the judiciary.”
Harwood’s resignation was effective 5:01 p.m. July 10.
Owen Wells is a reporter for Civitas Media. He can be reached at 304-752-6950 ext. 1729 or by email at [email protected]