Meck County magistrate suspended over misconduct charges

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A Mecklenburg County magistrate has been suspended and could be removed entirely due to misconduct charges, Channel 9 has learned.

In court documents, Chief District Court Judge Elizabeth Trosch alleges Magistrate Robin Sabio never completed Basic School for Magistrates, which is required by law to be a magistrate. She alleges Sabio only finished 21.25 of the required 27.75 credit hours.

“Sabio failed to demonstrate a minimum level of competence in the performance of the duties of magistrate,” the complaint reads.

Trosch alleges Sabio made “persistent and recurring errors,” saying she hasn’t demonstrated competence.

In the complaint, Trosch also alleges a time in which more than $2,000 of bond money went missing from two of Sabio’s cases in Cabarrus County. The complaint says the cash was nowhere to be found for more than a month, until Sabio “located the cash in her laptop bag.”

Trosch also said Sabio allegedly failed to show up for work from Feb. 12 until Feb. 29.

Sabio was sworn in as a magistrate in August 2023. She has since been suspended without pay, and Trosch is seeking to remove her entirely.

Defense attorneys told Channel 9′s Hunter Sáenz they are now scrambling to see if Sabio handled any part of their clients’ cases, especially with the allegations that she wasn’t adequately credentialed to be a magistrate by law.

“The first word that came to my mind was, ‘wow!’” said longtime Charlotte defense attorney George Laughrun.

He told Sáenz he’s never seen this happen in his 40 years at the courthouse.

“We’ve had judges removed from office for various reasons, but not because they allegedly didn’t meet the qualifications -- because they didn’t finish the class they were supposed to,” Laughrun said.

Magistrates are a crucial part of the justice system; they’re basically the first judge who a suspect sees. They set initial bond and determine if there’s probable cause.

“She didn’t have the authority to set any bond if she wasn’t really a magistrate,” he said.

Laughrun said every defense attorney should see if there’s reason to challenge any of their cases that Sabio handled.

Sáenz learned a hearing on the allegations was scheduled for Wednesday and is working to learn what came of it and if it took place.

Technically, magistrates have six months after they’re sworn in to complete their course work. Documents show the court immediately started to take action at that six-month mark.

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Hunter Sáenz

Hunter Sáenz, wsoctv.com

Hunter is a reporter for Channel 9.