CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Beleaguered Putnam County Family Court Judge William Watkins has filed for disability and plans to retire, according to documents filed with the state Supreme Court this week.
Watkins' attorney, Robert Martin, filed a motion on Monday to stay Supreme Court proceedings recommended by the state Judicial Hearing Board that could result in Watkins being suspended without pay until the end of his term in 2016.
Watkins should be given 30 days while his application for disability is processed before any decision is made, according to the filing.
Also this week, Watkins asked the high court to dismiss the complaints against him, noting actions taken by the hearing board had harmed his reputation, among other things. Watkins also objected to the hearing board's recommendations, which means a date will be set for arguments if the court chooses not to dismiss the charges.
The deadline for Watkins to respond to the Judicial Hearing Board recommendations was Wednesday.
Watkins would not comment Wednesday on the most recent filings. He was at work Wednesday, according to an official at the Putnam County Courthouse.
Martin also would not comment on the case, his legal assistant said Wednesday.
Watkins, who has been on the family court bench since 2002, faces seven charges from the state Judicial Investigation Commission alleging 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 month, Watkins apologized for his behavior. His attorney and the head of the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, who was appointed to prosecute the case, jointly recommended Watkins be suspended for 90 days without pay, but the suspension should be put on hold while Watkins was monitored and underwent counseling.
However, the state Judicial Hearing Board opted for a much harsher recommendation -- suspension until Watkins' term is up in four years. The board's recommendation goes to the state Supreme Court, which ultimately decides Watkins' punishment.
In the past, Watkins has blamed his behavior on stress from an overwhelming caseload and health problems.
Recommendations released by the hearing board included notes from an investigator's evaluation of Watkins that said his complaints of health problems seemed "vague or unusual"; and that his possibly "delusional symptoms should be evaluated." The complete evaluation is sealed.
In Wednesday's objections and motion to dismiss, Martin says the hearing board was wrong to cite the psychological report. He said the quotes from the report were taken out of context and were taken from a sealed report.
Also, Martin said that the Judicial Hearing Board should not have allowed unsworn testimony from complainants during a November hearing without allowing cross-examination, and said the board's recommendation to suspend Watkins for the remainder of his term "disenfranchises" Putnam voters and is unconstitutional.
After complaints were filed against Watkins, the state Office of Disciplinary Counsel, which gave its report to the Judicial Investigation Commission, found probable cause to believe that Watkins violated the state Code of Judicial Conduct, which establishes rules that judges are expected to uphold.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.