CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Republican Supreme Court candidate John Yoder received a rare reprimand last year for his actions as a Berkeley County circuit court judge.
The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission formally admonished Yoder for neglecting his duty by leaving a law clerk to preside over two hearings while Yoder attended a meeting outside of the courthouse.
Yoder is the first circuit court judge to receive an admonishment since 1998. The reprimand came just months after he narrowly lost a special Supreme Court election to Justice Thomas McHugh.
He is now one of four candidates seeking two seats on the high court's bench this fall.
While the reprimand received some press coverage last year, it may not be widely known statewide.
Yoder said he's always been forthcoming about the admonishment. He said he gave the admonishment to a reporter in his area when he received it and then posted the resulting article on his Facebook wall.
On May 13, 2011, Yoder was scheduled to hold two name change hearings in Morgan County. The hearings themselves are typically routine and at least one was scheduled to last no more than 15 minutes.
Yoder's handling of the hearings was not routine. Instead of presiding over them, he left the courthouse to attend a meeting of the West Virginia Judicial Association's legislative committee. The association represents the state's judges.
"Judge Yoder's law clerk, with the help of the bailiff, presided over both petitions," the judicial investigation commission found. Yoder said he believed it was important he attend the association's luncheon that day. In an interview with the Daily Mail, he described attending the meeting as one of his duties as a judge.