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W.Va. judge accused of misconduct seeks disability

Jan. 03, 2013 @ 02:54 PM

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A Putnam County Family Court judge accused of judicial misconduct has lost a bid to delay disciplinary proceedings against him.

The state Supreme Court denied Family Court Judge William Watkins' request on Thursday, the Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/X3DtiW) reported.

Watkins' lawyer, Robert Martin, filed a motion earlier this week asking the court to delay the proceedings. Martin said Watkins has filed for disability and plans to retire.

Martin also asked the court to dismiss the complaints against Watkins.

Martin and Watkins would not comment on the filings.

The state Judicial Investigation Commission alleges that Watkins delayed rulings, failed to enter domestic violence orders into the state's tracking system and screamed and cursed at litigants.

The Judicial Hearing Board recommended that Watkins be suspended without pay until his term ends on Dec. 31, 2016.

The hearing board rejected a proposed 90-day suspension without pay that would be stayed while Watkins addressed deficiencies and underwent counseling and judicial training. It cited the number of violations and Watkins' "apparent failure to take meaningful responsibility for his misconduct."

Martin argued that the hearing board's actions harmed Watkins' reputation. He said the board wrongly cited quotes from a sealed psychological report in its recommendations.

Martin said the hearing board also allowed unsworn testimony from complainants during a November hearing without allowing cross-examination.

Also, the hearing board's recommendation to suspend Watkins for the remainder of his term is unconstitutional and disenfranchises Putnam County voters, Martin said.

The Supreme Court will make the final decision. The justices will hear Watkins' case Feb. 5.

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