CHARLESTON – Albeit nearly a week late, a Putnam family law judge has replied to a second set of ethics charges.William M. Watkins III on Oct. 10 filed his answer to the statement of charges brought against him by the Judicial Investigation Commission on Aug. 31. The statement, which acts like an indictment for disciplinary purposes, accused Watkins, 58, of 24 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct in complaints filed against him by Rev. Arthur D. Hage, Sharon Stinson, Robert Harper, Tammy Jo Lambert and Mark Halburn.
Videos Hage, Harper and Lambert accompanied with their complaints showing Watkins using abrasive and foul language in their hearings have found their way onto the Internet, including YouTube. The video from the May 23 hearing in Hage’s case showing Watkins screaming so loud that the courtroom microphones become distorted has been viewed nearly 200,000 times, and has garnered international media attention.
Though Watkins’ answer was due by Oct. 4, his attorney, Robert P. Martin, asked that it still be accepted. He cited a breakdown in communication between Watkins and himself due to his “living in semi-retirement in Pocahontas County.”
In his answer, Watkins either admitted to all the allegations or acknowledged transcripts of hearings were correct. This included him referring to the biological father of Sharon Stinson’s child as a “dumb shit,” and Tammy Lambert as a “stupid woman” who was “shooting off [her] fat mouth.”
However, Watkins denied his actions or comments violated any of the Codes’ canons. Because of that, he asked the statement be dismissed.
Last month, Watkins also admitted to the allegations in another statement of charges, but denied violating any canons stemming from an extraordinary complaint filed by Steve Canterbury, the state Supreme Court’s administrative director. In that statement, JIC accused Watkins of six Code violations for failing to not only timely make a ruling for division of property between John J. and Nancy Black, but also to upload domestic violence protective orders to the Court’s registry.
In concluding his answer to that statement, Watkins pledged he and his staff would make a concerted effort to timely upload domestic violence orders to the registry the day they were entered, attend related training and answer and return telephone calls.
The Judicial Hearing Board has scheduled a hearing on both statements for Nov. 27 in Charleston at the Kanawha County Judicial Annex.
West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals case number 12-1008