In a fax sent Tuesday to the lawyer overseeing the case, Watkins said the circuit court "has no jurisdiction to run my docket." He also blamed the lawyers in the case for not following his instructions.
According to a Supreme Court decision from 2003, circuit court judges do have authority over family court judges in West Virginia. In that case, the Supreme Court overturned a decision in Berkeley County, in which a judge had ruled that circuit judges could not give orders to family court judges.
During the investigation into Watkins' delayed rulings, new allegations surfaced.
In March 2009, Watkins reportedly sent a letter to officials saying, "His office did not have time" to comply with a new program that would require family court judges to immediately enter all domestic violence-related orders to the state domestic violence database.
The charges allege several instances where Watkins had to be asked repeatedly to hand over orders. In one allegation, staff members with the Domestic Violence Registry repeatedly asked Watkins to upload an order in a case where the respondent had a firearm and previously had been arrested for following the petitioner with a loaded firearm.
"After several requests from Registry staff, the order was eventually uploaded," according to the charges.
In another case, a domestic violence order wasn't uploaded to the directory until nearly nine months later, according to the charges.
Teresa Tarr, attorney for the Judicial Investigation Commission, recused herself from the case because her secretary has a divorce case in front of Watkins. Rachael Fletcher Cipoletti, the chief lawyer at the State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, has been named special counsel in the case.
Watkins has 30 days after the formal charges to officially respond to the Judicial Investigation Commission. He did not return a telephone call Friday evening.
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.