Abusive Conduct and Failure To Follow Law by Judge William Watkins Requires His Removal From BenchWritten by: Chris Print This Article
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Two of the most basic premises in Western jurisprudence are impartiality of the judge and that the judge must follow the law and rulings of higher courts. Family Law Judge William Watkins of Putnam County, West Virginia, has repeatedly demonstrated that he is unable to perform either of these basic job duties. West Virginia has a legal obligation to remove this abusive man from the family law bench and to document his abusive conduct publicly to help ensure that no litigant in any court will ever be treated as unjustly and irresponsibly by him again.
Watkins first came to my attention based upon the video below that features him yelling, screaming, and threatening a quiet elderly man named Revered Arthur Hage in a family law hearing over sale of the family home in a divorce. From the very start of the tirade, Watkins makes it clear that he will not allow Hage to speak on threat of imprisonment. He then launches in a verbal tirade making accusations against Hage. The screaming is so loud that it causes the microphone and recording system to distort and clip the audio.
Judge William Watkins of Putnam County, West Virginia screaming and berating a litigant
Whether the accusations are true or not, I don’t claim to know. More importantly, the truth or falseness of the accusations is actually besides the point because the judge’s accusations are not about the case being heard but rather about a newspaper article featuring a photograph of Hage’s home and his wife and alleged vandalism of the home that he claims is somehow Hage’s fault. Can there be any kind of conflict of interest more obvious than this?
Home of Judge William Watkins at 111 Raintree Drive, Voiceover Explaining His HOA Arrears
Watkins has attacked many people in the community over their questioning his impartiality, his lateness on HOA (homeowner’s association) payments, and other problems involving him. His verbal rage at Hage exposes how he thinks he can use his position as a judge to retaliate against people in his courtroom simply because he believes they have something to do with his personal problems.
Watkins had a duty to immediately recuse himself from this case because of his personal feelings and strong conflict of interest. He should have done so by a proper written judicial recusal communicated to both parties, and this would have precluded his ridiculously abusive outburst in court. But Watkins failed to do so, instead holding a hearing to berate a litigant over personal matters and then proceeding to hear the matter thereby showing a complete inability to behave appropriately for a judge.
Even if Hage had personally spray painted, smashed windows, and littered trash at Watkins’ home and there was absolute proof of this such as by a video recording (to be clear, nobody claims there is such proof), Watkins still would have had no business behaving this way. The correct course of action would be to recuse from the case and let the police and prosecutor deal with Hage.
Some say Hage is a psychopath. I have no love for psychopaths, but at the same time recognize that many people are defamed and falsely accused of crimes and denied due process by the courts. If Hage actually is a troublemaker, some other judge in a criminal court that follows due process rules should be hearing a case against him based upon a police and prosecutorial investigation.
Watkins should not be involved in an official capacity as a judge against a man whom he clearly has a great deal of anger over personal issues apart from the case before him. Watkins does not seem to realize he is just a family law judge and not the police, prosecutor, criminal judge, and jury.
The Hages were originally in court for a divorce hearing regarding the sale of their home.
Watkins was upset over an article posted on a news blog. He says he felt threatened after a picture of his home appeared online and accused Hage of leaking it to the blogger.
“You are responsible — I’m holding you personally responsible for anything that happens at my house,” Watkins said. “My house has been vandalized four times. You realize that of course because I’m sure you’re probably in on it laughing about it.”
Hage, who’s been a preacher for decades, denied ever having a relationship with the blogger or even knowing where Watkins lives. Now, Hage says he wants to see Watkins removed from the bench.
“I don’t understand where he’s getting all this stuff, I don’t understand him,” Hage said. “You don’t treat people like this. This is not right.”
Watkins did eventually recuse from the case, but not until much later than he should have done so.
It appears that Watkins’ outburst at Hage is not an isolated incident. In another incident about one month before Watkins’ tirade at hage, the judge was caught screaming and yelling abusively at litigant Bob Parker over a child support matter.
At an April 19 hearing, Judge William Watkins yelled at Bob Parker for allegedly withholding child support payments from his ex-wife. Parker challenged that.
“I don’t like the idea that this guy can go around playing God,” said Parker.
Parker provided a copy of courtroom video and audio to of the hearing to us.
Watkins can be seen and heard using profanity, raising his voice and slamming a stack of papers against a desk.
Public comments have been made on news stories regarding Watkins that suggest many others have experienced similar abusiveness by Watkins, despite his false claim that his rage shown in the video of the attack against Hage was a one-time behavior. Another video, this one from January 2012, features him screaming at a disabled man named Robert Harper as he is ordering him to be arrested apparently because his attorney has not made a payment:
Putnam County Family Law Judge, William Watkins, Sends 62 Year Old, 1 legged Man to Jail!
Even after all of this, the West Virginia Supreme Court doesn’t think Watkins did anything wrong. Obviously judges policing judges does not work, just like cops policing cops also does not work. You have rampant corruption and abuse in such systems. Like almost everywhere else in the US, West Virginia is a typical example of officially sanctioned abuse and corruption that will not stop because there is no functional system to enforce rules on judges and to remove the bad judges from the bench.
Watkins’ failure to adequately perform his job extends beyond his verbal abusiveness. For example, there is the matter of Watkins failing to timely rule on matters before him. The West Virginia Supreme Court ordered Watkins to issue a ruling in a property split dispute after he had dilly-dallied for two years failing to render a ruling. Then Watkins failed to comply with the Supreme Court ruling by violating their deadline. Obviously this man is not able to do his job and thumbs his nose at the law and rules. Behaviors like these are evidence that hint at Watkins himself may be the sociopath he tries to portray others as being. Such people believe the rules do not apply to them and they can do as they please and make false excuse after false excuse, just as Watkins does time and again.
On June 12 of this year, John J.B.’s attorney asked the state Supreme Court to compel Watkins to issue a decision. Justices told Watkins to rule no later than June 28, Thursday’s order decision states.
But the Supreme Court’s deputy clerk contacted the Putnam circuit clerk’s office on Thursday morning, and confirmed that Watkins had “still failed to issue a decision as no order has been entered,” the Supreme Court decision states.
“In this case, it has been four days shy of two years since the filing of the motions that are the subject of this action. The Circuit Court in Putnam County […] has twice previously directed [Watkins] to enter a ruling. [Watkins] has shown no just cause for his failure to comply with orders of the court. In fact, he has failed to provide any response…,” justices said in their decision.
An ordinary citizen may not have been able to compel an irresponsible judge like Watkins to do his job. As it turns out, Nancy Black is on the West Virginia Judicial Investigative Commission so the the court may have chosen to pay more attention to the misconduct before it blew up into a political landmine for them.
And like he did with Hage, Watkins has claimed that the John and Nancy Black case is a one-time thing:
“I’ve always been in compliance,” he said. “Because of this one specific case I don’t want people to get the impression I’m lagging behind.”
As shown by the repeated videos of his verbal abusiveness, Judge Watkins appears to have a very short term memory or is a liar. Either way, he is clearly not suited for a job as a judge and the public is harmed by his presence on the bench.
And the list of misconduct by Watkins isn’t limited to the above. In 2011 alone, his rulings were challenged three times. Probably the most shocking of these involves Watkins ruling on a contested paternity fraud case after denying a DNA test by claiming such a test is not in the child’s best interest. DNA tests for paternity are a reasonably accurate and inexpensive means to determine paternity, far less expensive to litigants and taxpayers than expensive court hearings. Watkins has no business denying such a test in a contested paternity fraud case, but in the typical pattern of judicial unaccountability his superiors told the litigants to go litigate some more rather than simply order the DNA test as would be appropriate to quickly put the issue to rest.
If you think that the real “piece of …” (part of Watkins’ rage against Hage) in this whole story is Judge William Watkins and a judicial system that won’t police its own responsibly, perhaps you could contact Watkins to encourage him to take the responsible step and resign from the bench:
William M. Watkins, III
Family Court Judge
Putnam County Judicial Building
3388 Winfield Road
Winfield, WV, 25213
For anybody who thinks that this level of judicial abusiveness is out of the ordinary, think again. It is commonplace. This is precisely why a drastic overhaul is needed in the family courts to ensure that judges do not have the power to abuse litigants and violate the law. Every family law litigant should have the opportunity to have safeguards against these kinds of abuses. Today, few beyond the rich and politically connected can afford the safeguards of appeals and those safeguards often take at least a few years to play out even when there is clearly evident abuse of process, bias, and abuse of discretion.
Because litigants in these courts are frequently financially and emotionally ruined by the process, safeguards must be provided by an outside group that does not cost the litigants a significant sum of money unless they are abusing the safeguard process. In criminal courts, a jury provides a safeguard against government misconduct. That is exactly what is needed in family law courts, particularly in cases which are high conflict. The Hage case may be one of these given the domestic violence allegations made by Hage’s ex-wife Lillian that are reportedly lacking corroborating evidence. False DV allegations are a standard tactic for the real abuser to use to harass and victimize an ex with the full help of the court and law enforcement.
These shocking audio video recordings also show that every court hearing and every publicly accessible area of a courthouse should be audio and video recorded for the safety and security of all parties present and to ensure “quality control” in the courtroom.
Recordings should be available to law enforcement and litigants to be used to protect people’s rights and to verify the accuracy of transcripts and court orders. Instead, most family law courts lack recordings of the proceedings and frequently the reporters fail to record words accurately, judges ramble so incoherently that nobody — not even their clerks — can understand them, and court staff writes orders that are imbecilic, incoherent, and ripe for producing future conflict because of their poor quality.
Without audio video recordings of the proceedings to prove to all what really was said and what happened, frequently the judges and their staffs engage in blame-shifting to falsely blame litigants, attorneys, and others for their own incompetence and inadequacy. The public has a right to know that many family law judges are extremely poor at their jobs and should be removed from the bench for misconduct, incompetence, prejudice, verbal abusiveness, or any of a long list of other strikes against them. Judge Watkins shows all of these qualities and the videos of him make that very evident.