OddlyEnough™: WV Judge Accused of Misconduct Seeks Disability
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 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 December 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 February 05, 2013.
Northern West Virginia Bankruptcy Filings Decline
Bankruptcy filings in Northern West Virginia are down 20% from 2011.
Court records show 1,647 cases were filed in the Northern District of West Virginia Bankruptcy Court through November.
During the same period in 2011, 2,080 cases were filed.
Two bankruptcy lawyers differ on whether the decline is a sign that the economy is improving.
Michael Clagett tells The Dominion Post that bankruptcy filings increase when the economy improves. He says people perceive others as doing better financially than they are doing.
John Brooks tells the newspaper that he doesn’t believe there’s a correlation between the economy’s state and the decline in bankruptcy filings. He says many of the cases he sees involve people who have large medical bills, not credit card debt.
Larry Chapman Sworn in as Gilmer County Commissioner
On Thursday, December 20, 2012, Gilmer County Circuit Judge Facemier
swore in Larry Chapman as Gilmer Counties newly elected Commissioner.
Chapman will replace Chester Sholes who has filled the seat of Dave Hess since his retirement.
Long Time Gilmer County Magistrate Bob Minigh Retires
Friends, colleagues, co-workers and members of the community paid a tear-filled, bittersweet farewell recently to a beloved, long-serving Gilmer County Magistrate at a retirement party in his honor.
Gilmer County Magistrate Robert W. Minigh will officially retires December 31, 2012 when his current terms expires.
Minigh, who has served as a magistrate for the past 36 years chose not to run for re-election in 2012.
He leaves behind long-held professional and working relationship with many in the local judicial and legal community.
Bob, who found it difficult to hold back emotions, thanked all of those he has worked with over the years.
Gilmer County’s longtime magistrate, Carol Wolfe presented the retiring magistrate with certificate of appreciation on behalf of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals thanking him for his many years of dedicated and outstanding service to Gilmer County Magistrate Court and the citizens of the state.
Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia
Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum II
Justice Robin Jean Davis
Justice Brent D. Benjamin
Justice Margaret L. Workman
Justice Thomas E. Mchugh
Be It Known That Robert W. Minigh Has Rendered Valuable and Distinguished Services to The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals and to All The Citizens of The County of Gilmer as Magistrate Tirelessly Giving of Himself in The Proper, Equitable, and Professional Administration of Justice For 36 Years.
By The Authority Vested in The Supreme Court of Appeals, There Is Hereby Conferred And Awarded To Him This Certificate of Recognition.
Menis E. Ketchum, II, Chief Justice
Steven D. Canterbury,
Supreme Court of Appeals
Bob is a highly respected member of the community. Many of you know Bob as a Little League Coach for Normantown Elementary. He led the girls and boys to many victories, probably more than any other coach in the county.
In those days, Bob did not coach because his son or daughter was on the team. He coached because he loved the game. Of all the coaches, Bob Minigh was the most fair. He believed that every child deserved the opportunity to play the game, and everyone on the team had an equal chance, no matter who the child was related to.
Bob was known as a coach who would take a chance on a kid that no one else would give a second glance.
Many of these kids could not afford shoes or equipment, but Bob made sure they had everything they needed. They were the sharpest team on the field.
As an example, some of you may remember when Bob coached 5th and 6th graders in basketball at Normantown.
He had seven basketball players who played in the championship game against Glenville Elementary, a team of twenty boys.
In the first quarter, two of the Normantown ball players fouled out. After a third ball player fouled out, the Normantown team had to finish with four ball players.
Those four Normantown boys were exhausted, but Glenville Elementary had a bench full of boys itching to get into the game.
Glenville coaches kept their starters in because they wanted to win.
When Normantown Elementary won the championship game with four players, the opposing team fell to their knees and cried in defeat.
They had given all they had, but that was not enough to conquer Bob Minigh’s Normantown Vikings.
The citizens of Gilmer County will never be able to repay Bob for his kindness to the youngsters in the county because Bob is not an ordinary man.
He is a hero to many young people who have grown into respectable, caring people who use Bob’s example in their everyday lives.
WV Child Abuse Lawyers Earning Decades-Old Pay
Some of the court-appointed lawyers trying to help West Virginia judges make good decisions for abused and neglected children are earning wages last raised in the 1980s.
It is demanding and time-consuming, but at $45 an hour for out-of-court work and $65 for in-court work, some lawyers say it is basically charity work.
Court officials agree and say they will propose legislation in February that would raise compensation to $75 and $90 an hour for attorneys paid through Public Defender Services.
But the bill has a $4.8 million price tag, so it faces challenges as legislators grapple with a massive shortfall in Medicaid funding.
A similar bill went nowhere this year.
But Lisa Tackett, director of family court services for the state Supreme Court, says its one officials think is worth fighting for.
G-Eye™: Gilmer County Sheriff Takes Oath of Office - 2012
G-Eye™: Gilmer County Magistrates Take Oath of Office - 2012
Judge Tosses EQT’s Lawsuit against Doddridge County Commission
A judge has thrown out a Pennsylvania gas company’s lawsuit against the Doddridge County Commission, saying he has no jurisdiction to hear the fight over a flood plain ordinance that he’s determined is partially unconstitutional.
Pittsburgh-based EQT sued the north-central West Virginia county in May for revoking a flood plain permit after the company had spent $300,000 on the permitting process. The county acted after its flood plain manager realized homes and livestock would be vulnerable if 20,000 cubic yards of earth were moved in to build a well pad.
EQT asked Doddridge County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Sweeney to issue an injunction on the permit revocation so it could proceed with plans for 12 wells. Sweeney denied that and EQT’s motion for summary judgment in a ruling filed with the circuit clerk earlier this week.
Sweeney also declared the county’s ordinance “constitutionally defective’‘ under the West Virginia Constitution because it fails to give nearby property and mineral rights owners the right to due process—in this case, notification of proposed development and the right to be heard.
Without that, Sweeney ruled, EQT is not entitled to an injunction. And regardless of whether EQT complied with the ordinance, Sweeney wrote, “it has no clear right to the permit.‘’
The ordinance does, however, support “a legitimate public interest and is an appropriate exercise of governmental authority and power,‘’ the judge said.
EQT spokeswoman Linda Robertson said that given the wording of the ruling, “it’s possible we wouldn’t need to obtain a flood plain permit.‘’
“However, we’re still looking at the judge’s order, what options we may have and what other obstacles may exist before we decide on anything,‘’ she said. “The Doddridge County Commission is already at work on a new ordinance, so we’re likely to want to see that as well before moving forward.‘’
None of the county commissioners immediately returned messages.
EQT had argued that the county and the state Department of Environmental Protection granted permits, so the flood plain manager had no authority to revoke them. But Joye Huff, a landowner who was allowed to intervene in the lawsuit, said that when the Federal Emergency Management Agency pointed out the potential problems, the manager had no choice but to withdraw the David McMahon of the West Virginia Surface Owners Rights Organization represented Huff at the start of the litigation. He said EQT’s engineering consultant predicted that the earth-moving plans would cause flood waters to rise, but by less than 1 foot.
McMahon’s group hired other engineers who concluded it would raise the waters more than 1 foot.
Either way, McMahon said, the property owners should have had the chance to make that argument to the County Commission before the permit was issued.
Huff said the dispute over how her 10-acre meadow would be affected began four years ago, when EQT first proposed two wells. Over time, she said, that grew to four, then eight, then 12, ultimately covering seven of her acres.
“We have no concern with them drilling on our property,‘’ she said. “We understand they have the lease. That’s not the issue.‘’
Rather, she and about a dozen other farm owners are concerned about future flooding that could put both lives and property at risk.
“We did try to constantly discuss for the last four years our concerns,‘’ she said. “We just never could get them to come to the table.‘’
Huff’s farm has been in her family since 1863, she said, and she won’t just let it be destroyed.
“I have always felt like the big corporations forget about the human part and they don’t try to work with the community and the residents,‘’ she said. “They just want to drill and get their product out and leave. And we’re going to be the ones left behind with all the side effects.‘’
Gilmer County Family Court Report - 12.12.12
On Wednesday, December 12, 2012 Family Court Judge Larry Whited spent most of the day in Gilmer County.
• Three domestic violence cases were scheduled, with one being withdrawn prior to hearing and the remaining 2 being dismissed after the hearing.
• One modification was heard.
• One modification was dismissed.
• One status was heard in a divorce case.
• Two contempt hearings were dismissed.
• A final hearing was held in a divorce case, but no order has been entered yet.
• Two temporary hearings were held in divorce cases but no order has been received yet from those hearings.
Gilmer County Circuit Court Report - 12.13.12
On Thursday, December 13, 2012 Chief Judge Alsop appeared in Gilmer County to hear a couple matters.
• One fugitive from justice hearing was not heard but continued generally, being State of West Virginia vs. Kenneth Fraker.
A status hearing will be held in the matter on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 11:45AM.
He is represented by David Karickhoff of Sutton.
• Karickhoff also represented Elsie Marie Tingler who was before the Court for a bond revocation for failing her urine screen previously.
Judge Alsop denied reinstating her to bond and left her in the Central Regional Jail pending her trial on Tuesday, February 12, 2013.
• The oath of office was administered to Prosecuting Attorney Gerald B. Hough and Assessor Gary L. Wolfe.
G-otcha™: Two Lewis County Residents Enter Pleas of Guilty on Firearms Charges
Two Lewis County, West Virginia, residents entered pleas of guilty on December 14, 2012, in United States District Court in Elkins before Magistrate Judge John S. Kull.
LAWAN GADDY, age 24 and TIFFANY ROACH, age 23, entered pleas of guilty to Providing a False Statement to a Federal Firearms Licensee in the Acquisition of a Firearm on September 20, 2011.
GADDY, who is in custody pending sentencing, and ROACH, who is on bond, each face up to 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Zelda E. Wesley and investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Gilmer County Circuit Court Report – 12.12.12
On Monday, December 10, 2012 Chief Judge Jack Alsop presided over his regular monthly motion day in Gilmer County
• Prior to running through his document, Judge Alsop administered the oath of office to Gilmer County Magistrates, Carol Wolfe and newly elected Alton Skinner II.
• He also talked to 3 jurors who failed to appear for recent trials, and informed them that he would not hold them in contempt at this time, but to follow the instructions given to them by the Circuit Clerk as to when to report for jury duty.
• State of West Virginia vs. Abdul Kargbo
He waived extradition to Wisconsin where he was wanted after being released from the federal prison in Glenville, WV.
Authorities in Wisconsin have until Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 4:00 PM to pick Kargbo up or Central Regional Jail will release him.
He was represented by Christopher Moffatt of Charleston.
• One juvenile was heard and reset for Monday, March 11, 2013 at 9:00 AM.
• Another one was heard and reset for Thursday, January 10, 2013 at 1:00 PM.
• State of West Virginia vs. John Robert Carder
He appeared for further arraignment after being indicted on Thursday, November 08, 2012.
He is represented by Christina Flanigan of Buckhannon and asked for his trial to be continued to the March, 2013 term.
• State of West Virginia vs. Rodney Singleton
He pled not guilty after his arraignment was completed.
He fired his court appointed attorney and retained Jerome Novobilski of Clay to represent him.
He will have a pretrial on Friday, February 08, 2013 at 9:00 AM and trial on Tuesday, February 26, 2013.
• State of West Virginia vs. Elsie Marie Tingler
She was before the Court for revocation of her bond, and after her attorney, David Karickhoff, failed to appear for her hearing Judge Alsop sent her to jail and later reset her hearing for Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 10:00 AM.
• State of West Virginia vs. Gerald A. Adkins II
He was before the Court asking to be released from Central Regional Jail because he had passed his urine screen.
Judge Alsop readmitted him to bond heretofore given and was released.
Adkins was represented by Daniel Grindo of Gassaway, but Daniel Armstrong stood in for Grindo in these proceedings.
• Judge Alsop also performed a marriage between Terra Mclntyre and Gary Ackley.
WV Supreme Court Seeks Tidier Appeals
The state Supreme Court says some lawyers need to do their homework.
The high court on Monday issued an administrative order Monday criticizing sloppy and frivolous appeals that include legal briefs filed without legal citations and appeals with only minimal arguments.
Chief Justice Menis Ketchum says the court is receiving numerous briefs “that you can’t make heads or tails out of.”
The court says appeals shouldn’t be filed unless a lawyer believes in good faith that a lower court committed an error.
The Charleston Daily Mail reports lawyers could receive warnings or risk having their cases thrown out if they do not do a better job.
West Virginia Redistricting Challenge May Seek State Supreme Court Opinion
West Virginia’s Supreme Court may be asked to help resolve a pending challenge of the state’s new congressional districts.
Both sides in a federal lawsuit targeting that redistricting support asking the state justices whether the new plan complies with the West Virginia Constitution. They weighed in with court filings this week.
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments in September that the new map violated the U.S. Constitution.
The challenged map moved one county between two of the state’s three congressional districts.
Jefferson County’s commission sued, seeking an alternative map. Lawyer Thornton Cooper later joined the case.
The West Virginia Constitution requires compact congressional districts formed of contiguous counties. Jefferson’s district stretches across the state from the Ohio River to the Blue Ridge Mountains.
WV Judicial Hearing Board Order Says Judge Should Not Return to Bench
The West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board says a Putnam County family court judge should be suspended without pay until his term ends in December 2016.
The hearing board’s order is stiffer against Judge William Watkins III than recommended by state Office of Disciplinary Counsel during a hearing last week.
Judge Watkins is in trouble for his courtroom outbursts. He promised during last week’s hearing to get counseling in order for him to stay on the bench. He agreed to five recommended sanctions including counseling, being monitored and getting more training.
Click H E R E to Read the Order
But the Judicial Hearing Board, which conducted last week’s hearing, says in its order that’s not enough but instead Watkins should be censured “on each of the 24 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.“
He should be “suspended without pay until his present term of office ends December 31, 2016.“
The order says Watkins should also pay the cost for the investigation and prosecution of his case, which is about $18,000.
Watkins and the Office of Disciplinary Counsel have 30 days to respond to the hearing board’s order.
The state Supreme Court will consider the responses before deciding the next step. The matter could end up before the High Court for oral argument.
Watkins testified last week that he has made mistakes.
“I’d like have the opportunity to correct those mistakes and to prove that I can be an even better judge for Putnam County,“ he said.
The complaints date as far back as 2008.
In one case, when a defendant spoke out of turn, Watkins screamed, “...Understand that I will resign this bench and I will personally see to it that you never see a free day in your life. You understand that? You’re going to jail. I swear to God.“
In a second case, an angry Judge Watkins asked a woman appearing before him in court, “...Why are you shooting off your fat mouth?“ and said, “Shut up! You stupid woman.“
In several other cases, Watkins was so angry the comments he made were so distorted the recorder could not determine exactly what he was saying.
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