West Virginia Judge In Abusive Video Will Not Face Complaint From Supreme Court Because He Is “Contrite”

We previously discussed the bizarre screaming tirade of Putnam Circuit Judge William Watkins in a divorce case. While the husband, Rev. Arthur D. Hage, 63, charged Watkins with misconduct, Steve Canterbury, the administrator of the West Virginia Supreme Court has announced that he will not seek charges in the case. It leaves some confusion over what it would take to get a charge out of the high court.

Canterbury insisted “I think the judge is embarrassed and certainly contrite about his outburst, and I think he has rightfully recused himself.” Really? Watkins did not recuse himself from the hearing after declaring this to now be a personal matter.

After screaming at the pastor to “shut up” and accusing him of feeding a negative story about Watkins to the media, Watkins adds “Because of you, my wife is there alone, and my house has been vandalized four times. You realize that, of course, as I’m sure you’re probably in on it and laughing about it.”

The judge continues by saying “You, you disgusting piece of …” and “I swear to you. You’re responsible. I’m holding you personably responsible for anything that happens to my house.”

In what appears to be the world’s most obvious point, Watkins states “I promise you that if see so much as anyone blanketing my home, my wife, my family, you and me are going to have a problem. …”

Notably, Watkins appears to start to recuse himself after saying “Well, buddy, it’s personal. It’s personal, and I can promise you, you will not hear the end of if from me.” It would seem recusal at that point is inevitable. However, Watkins stops himself and again starts to beat up on the pastor, including some remarkable threats : “Please understand that. I will resign this bench and I will personally see to it that you never see a free day in your life. Do you understand? You’re going to jail,. I swear to God.”

I have no doubt that he is embarrassed after becoming an Internet sensation. However, the video reveals conduct that is shocking and raises serious questions about Watkins’ suitability as a judge. Notably, absent such a video, it is doubtful that the pastor could have forced a recusal in the case. While most judges in this country are professional and civil, we often see judges behaving badly in court by unnecessarily berating and screaming at both lawyers and litigants. We have a federal judge in Virginia who is known to be so insecure that young lawyers are told to constantly kow-tow and compliment him to avoid an outburst.

As with videotaping police officers, there is a great value to videotaping judges. I have previously, for example, argued for televising Supreme Court arguments. While the same value in my view is to expose a loss of competence and ability by aging justices, there is also a benefit in terms of decorum. I have often heard from visitors to the Court that they were shocked by the arrogance and rudeness of the justices. I have seen such conduct in the Court. Justices know that lawyers are unlikely to object and risk alienating the Court from their client’s case. With no cameras, such conduct can flourish unabated.

As for Watkins, the video might help to find something of concern to the West Virginia Supreme Court:

Source: WV Gazette

25 thoughts on “West Virginia Judge In Abusive Video Will Not Face Complaint From Supreme Court Because He Is “Contrite”

  1. Mespo, AY, I don’t say (although I sometimes use it as a hyperbole that is a blogging-writing-public speaking device) that all judges are irremediably corrupt. What I DO SAY and don’t back down off is this:

    IF a judge has an ORDINARY amount of what it takes to function in a corrupt way now and then and get away with it 100% without difficulty, and let’s call that “Quality X in Quantity Y” or, more succinctly, “enough XY,” then they can go totally haywire bonkers loongoon CRAZY on a few people at a few places along the line, and they can get everyone in the important places (appellate courts, agencies, police, etc. etc. etc.) to not only back them up, but to cover up anything that has to be covered up, to fix anything that has to be fixed, and to destroy anyone who has to be destroyed. ANYONE who is less powerful and/or who has less “enough XY” than they have, that is.

    A guy can be a good judge with a good reputation and what is generally thought of as integrity. He can go apesh*t on one person for one reason (like an urgent and urging phone call from a brother on the bench) and he can get back-up from every quarter to insulate him from the results. Let’s just say that the person becomes quite FOCUSED and maybe even FANATICAL on restoring his or her (I’ll choose “her”) rights. Let’s say she’s not dumb. Let’s say she figures out remedy-1, then remedy-2, then remedy-3, and on down the line. Let’s say that she doesn’t quit and the thing gets bigger and bigger and bigger.

    What’s he to do? Admit that he did something completely outrageous, that he should be reversed and maybe even investigated for some malfeasance or misfeasance in office? That he done wrong?

    Here’s what he will do AT LEAST HALF THE TIME: Twist everybody’s arm into protecting him from the natural consequences of his conduct.

    I see that; I call it corruption. I see it a LOT! Why? Because it’s EASY. Opposing it is, on the other hand, HARD.

    This is not about a chance ride on a bull that was the wrong bull. Here’s what it’s made of:

    1. I have heard an assistant AG in New York stand on a street corner and say to an African American woman who was challenging a judge with a mandamus because he was ruling without jurisdiction (subject matter jurisdiction) over the cause, “Ms. P*****s, please, I don’t want to see you do this. You’re African American; I’m African American, you know that I like you and I am concerned about you. Do not attack Judge Friedman like this. He can do things to you and YOU WILL NEVER SEE HIS HAND IN IT.” Ms. P*****s smiled at the Assistant AG and she said, “Thank you for your concern.”

    2. I have heard a Commonwealth Attorney from Arlington, VA (who went on to become a US Attorney and thence to become Commissioner of the Parole Board in Virginia) say to me point blank and dishonestly that there was NO MECHANISM IN STATE LAW FOR VACATING A FELONY WARRANT ONCE IT WAS DRAWN. That was a lie. She knew I would believe it, though, because at that time I had the reputation of really having respect for public officials and she was one. It was not only a lie, it was a separate act of corruption and misfeasance AND malfeasance because her office had ALREADY withdrawn the felony warrant when she said that, and she knew it.

    3. I have heard a judge in California threaten a mother with loss of all contact with her child IF SHE TOLD THE CHILD that the judge was ordering that she be taken from her mother in four days. The mother was threatened that if she did not let the guardian ad litem inform the child, rather than telling her herself, she would not only lose all her visitation but would “be sorry if I ever find out.” There is no California law that allows a Family Court judge (or any other judge) to restrict free speech in advance based on content.

    4. I have heard a Virginia judge reference Neville Chamberlain while making his own decision, and saying that he was going to follow Chamberlain’s method of appeasement, even though he thought he “might be making a heck of a mistake.” This same judge called the person for whom he made that mistake a “Jewish Nazi.”

    5. I have read a transcript of one judge talking to another judge and telling him bold, provably false lies, about what had previously happened in his court. This was supposed to be in aid of the two judges figuring out certain jurisdictional issues but it was just an excuse for one judge to prejudice the other judge in ways he knew he couldn’t support if the court documents were actually produced and revealed.

    6. I have had a Clerk of Court threaten to get a protective order against me asking questions of “her” employees to see how long a certain kind of case usually waited before a hearing was held.

    I have three, four hundred more of these isolated anecdotal incidents to report. Are there also good judges who are honest? Sure. Can we trust the system? HELL NO!!!!!

    And HERE is why we can’t: Because it’s strictly up to the individual judge or public official if he wants to be honest or fraudulent, just or corrupt. THE DECISION IS ENTIRELY UP TO HIM. Why? Because of Judicial immunity, because of the power coefficient, because of money, because of everybody having something on everybody else. IF a judge wants to act properly and if he errs, err only because he got something wrong (which, after all, is fine, and we can all live with that, and we all MUST live with that), then he can. But IF he chooses to act wrong, corruptly, dishonestly, inappropriately, or criminally, he will be protected. 99.99% of the time, if he does choose to act wrong, corruptly, dishonestly, inappropriately, or even criminally, there will be NO PRICE FOR HIM TO PAY; the price will be paid by his victim(s).

    I’ll take that belief to my grave with me. Maybe sooner rather than later.

  2. Sickening. “He’s contrite”?? This judge represents in a very visible example what I believe the majority of family court judges in this state believe…that they are Gods and the citizens are subjects. Judges have no check and balance and if this doesn’t prove it I don’t know what would. That was nothing but an assault plain and simple. I long for the day one of these robed cows lights up like that on a vet returning from Afghanistan after taking away his kids, and enslaving him to a life of purgatory supporting a cheating wife and giving away his retirement to her. Their needs to be an entire review of the record of these judges and what goes on in these courtrooms. Men are routinely treated like this it is just never seen. Family court needs to be open. Afterall, if these Judges are so confident in their decisions then they should have no problem with the scrutiny of the judgement and their behavior in court. This pathetic Judge and all like him should be reprimanded and removed from the bench.

  3. Malisha, we should connect and share resources. 410 916 8863. Todd W. I’m knee deep in exposing lot of corrupt servants occupying an office of the public trust. Attacked often by those criminals, have a few arrows sticking in me now. You have in depth knowledge like I do. We should leverage that knowledge.

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