30 March 2013

KingCast Sees West Virginia Jackass Judge William Watkins, III Suspended from Bench.

Anyone who has litigated for more than half a year has encountered a jackass judge, either directly or by and through his or her peers. Every now and then, those judges whose conduct besmirches the legal community are brought to Justice, or some approximation thereof. Here is the story of one such Jurist, read more below the fold.

Judge who was videotaped screaming at litigants is ousted

By Leigh Jones

The National Law Journal

March 28, 2013

A West Virginia judge caught on video screaming furiously at litigants has been removed from the bench for the duration of his term.

The West Virginia Supreme Court on March 26 suspended Putnam County, W.Va., Family Court Judge William Watkins III without pay until December 2016, citing 24 violations of the state's judicial ethics rules.

The justices said that, while in court, Watkins shouted profanities at people and threatened litigants. On one occasion, he called a woman seeking a protective order against her husband "stupid," they said. He told her to shut up and criticized her for "shooting off [her] fat mouth about what happened."

The judge's conduct in a separate case was recorded on video and posted on YouTube in July.  Another link to more video of Judge Watkins getting dressed down.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7I__c8JLAc

In opposing the suspension, Watkins had argued that the justices lacked authority under the state's constitution to order such a long suspension, because it amounted to impeachment

The court was not persuaded. "The sanctions…come nowhere close to the sanctions that would result from a legislative impeachment and removal of Judge Watkins from office, such as a forfeiture of his rights to a pension and rights to hold a future office," Justice Menis Ketchum wrote.

Watkins was elected to the bench in 2002 and re-elected in 2008. He admitted to the 24 violations involving nine rules of the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. Those rules included maintaining high standards of conduct, avoiding impropriety and conducting oneself with patience and dignity.

"The overriding goal of judicial discipline is to preserve public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary," Ketchum wrote. "That confidence was plainly sullied by the actions of Judge Watkins."

The court ordered Watkins to pay the costs of the investigation and prosecution.

Watkins could not be reached for comment. A message left at the number listed for attorney Robert Martin, identified in the decision as the attorney for Watkins, was not returned.

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