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Interim Putnam family judge only one to apply for post

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Only one person -- the person filling the post on an interim basis now -- applied to be appointed Putnam County's family court judge, according to a member of the state Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission.

Deloris Nibert, a former family court judge in Mason and Jackson counties, will interview for the position Monday, according to Kent Carper, a commission members who is also president of the Kanawha County Commission.

Nibert, 56, has been filling in for William Watkins since January. In March, the state Supreme Court suspended Watkins without pay until the end of his term in 2016. He resigned last month.

The judicial commission must recommend an applicant to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who will make the appointment.

Nibert, who recently moved into an apartment in Teays Valley, served for several years as a temporary family court judge around the state.

"Like when a judge is ill or, in this case in Putnam County, the seat became open when the judge was ordered to leave the bench and they needed someone to fill in," Nibert said Friday. "Frankly, it's been very helpful to me to practice all over the state and learn the ways other judges do things. I've been able to see the best of the best and bring it here."

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.

Watkins blamed an overwhelming caseload and argued the county needed a second family judge.

Although there is a large docket and a huge amount of paperwork in Putnam family court -- and Nibert agrees the county would benefit from another judge -- she thinks things are going well. 

"We've got some really good procedures in place right now. Dockets are moving pretty smoothly. There is a lot of paperwork and it can be hard to keep up with, but that's because it's such a large circuit," Nibert said.

However, "domestic violence records, thankfully, are put on the record immediately -- that's been helpful to police officers more than once here," she said.

Nibert said she wants the job to provide continuity for Putnam County residents.

I think it would be good for the county," she said. "They got a lot of bad publicity here and I think that we're doing everything we can to make sure that things run smoothly enough so we can gain the confidence of the community again."

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


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