CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Judicial Hearing Board wants a family court judge in Putnam County suspended without pay until his term ends in 2016.
The hearing board's recommendations for Judge William Watkins were released today. Watkins faces seven charges from the state Judicial Investigation Commission alleging that he delayed rulings, failed to enter domestic violence orders into the state's tracking system and screamed and cursed at litigants.
At a hearing last week, Watkins apologized for his behavior. His lawyer and the head of the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, who prosecuted the case, jointly recommended that Watkins should be suspended for 90 days without pay, but the suspension should be put on hold while Watkins was monitored for 90 days and underwent counseling.
The state Judicial Hearing Board opted for a much harsher recommendation. The board's recommendation now goes to the state Supreme Court, which will ultimately decide Watkins' punishment.
Watkins did not return a phone call on Tuesday. He has until Jan. 2 to respond to the hearing board's recommendations.
The hearing board wrote in its recommendation that Watkins' "demeanor during the testimony made it appear to the Judicial Hearing Board that [Watkins] was less than sincere."
The board noted that at the end of the hearing, when complainants were given a chance to address Watkins, one of the complainants, Mark Hallburn, asked Watkins to turn and face him. The chairman of the hearing board said that was an improper request and told Hallburn to continue.
"Despite this directive by the Chairperson and despite what appeared to be the advice of his counsel that he not do so, [Watkins] turned in his chair, leaned back, crossed his arms, and glared at [Hallburn] in an angry and confrontational manner, which stood in stark contrast to [Watkins'] demeanor during his own testimony," the judicial hearing board wrote.
Last week's hearing came after an investigation by the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which gave its report to the Judicial Investigation Commission. The commission found probable cause to believe that Watkins violated the state Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes rules that judges are expected to uphold.