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Suspended Putnam Family Court judge to resign

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Putnam County Family Court judge who was already suspended without pay until 2016 has informed the governor's office that he'll resign on Nov. 30.

In March, the West Virginia Supreme Court suspended William Watkins without pay until the end of his term. Watkins, who had been a family court judge since 2002, was charged by the state Judicial Investigation Commission with delaying rulings, failing to enter domestic violence orders into the state's tracking system and screaming and cursing at litigants.

When they suspended Watkins, Supreme Court justices appointed Deloris Nibert, a former Mason County Family Court judge, to fill in for Watkins.

Watkins notified Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office at the beginning of October that he would retire.

Interviews to fill the Putnam Family Court judge position will be held Dec. 16, members of the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission decided Tuesday. Applications for the job were due last week.

The commission will recommend two to five applicants to Tomblin after interviewing applicants.

Also on Dec. 16, commission members will interview candidates to fill the remaining three years of former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury's term.

Applications are due Dec. 3 to replace Thornsbury, who pleaded guilty to a federal charge last month.

Thornsbury had served as the sole circuit judge in the 30th Judicial Circuit since 1997 and was re-elected to an eight-year term in 2008.

He pleaded guilty in federal court last month to conspiring to deprive a drug suspect of his legal rights in a scheme to thwart a federal investigation into the county's sheriff.

The Supreme Court appointed John Cummings, a senior status judge from Cabell County, to temporarily replace Thornsbury on the Mingo County bench. Thomas McHugh, a retired justice, is assisting Cummings.

Members of the Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission include Morgantown attorney Debra Scudiere; Charleston accountant Steve Robey; Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO; Joyce McConnell, dean of the WVU College of Law; Peter Markham, general counsel for Tomblin's office; State Bar President Harry Deitzler; Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper; former House of Delegates Minority Leader Charles Trump, of Morgan County; Huntington businessman Doug Hardman; Huntington attorney Bert Ketchum; and Wheeling businessman Don Wagenheim.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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