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Putnam judge's attempt to stop disciplinary proceedings rejected

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a Putnam County family court judge's attempt to stop the disciplinary proceedings against him and allow him time to file for disability payments so he can retire.

Judge William Watkins' attorney, Robert Martin, filed the motion to stay proceedings on Monday. In a 5-0 vote Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected his request.

The state Judicial Hearing Board has recommended that Watkins be suspended without pay until the end of his term in 2016.

Watkins also asked the court this week to drop ethics charges he's facing and set the case for oral arguments. The Supreme Court said it would hear arguments in the case on Feb. 5.

Watkins, who has been on the family court bench since 2002, 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.

In the objection and motion to dismiss, Martin said the hearing board was wrong to cite from a sealed psychological report on Watkins in its recommendation. He said the quotes from the report were taken out of context.

Also, Martin said the Judicial Hearing Board should not have allowed testimony from complainants during a hearing in November 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.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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