Watkins accused of ejecting man from courthouse without cause
WINFIELD – In addition to screaming at Pastor Art Hage, Putnam Family Law Judge William M. "Chip" Watkins III will have to answer why he ordered one of the minister's parishioners out of the courthouse.
Paul D. Bentley also filed a complaint with the Judicial Investigation Commission against Watkins on June 4. In his complaint, Bentley, 53, of Hurricane, alleges Watkins ordered him out of the Putnam Judicial Building on May 23 for no reason.
According to his complaint, Bentley accompanied Hage to the two hearings he had before Watkins on May 22 and 23. Both days, Bentley went into the family court waiting room.
After the May 23 hearing started, Bentley says he could hear Watkins shouting at Hage. In his complaint, Bentley says he heard Watkins threaten to put Hage in jail and accuse him of being responsible for vandalism that occurred to his house following publication of an online article about Watkins "not being in good standing" with his homeowner's association dues.
Though Bentley says he could've heard more, he was asked to leave the waiting area.
About four minutes into the hearing, the bailiff is seen leaving the courtroom. The video shows him visibly agitated when he returns 90 seconds later.
At that point Watkins asks, "What? We got friends out there, too," in which the bailiff replied "Yeah, he thinks it's funny."
After the bailiff gives a description of Bentley, Watkins asks "Did you bring along a comedian, Mr. Hage?" When Hage replied "He's my chauffer, sir," Watkins snidely replied "He's your chauffer."
At that point, Watkins asked the bailiff, "Did you put him out of the building?" When the bailiff said "Not yet judge," Watkins said, "Out of the building. I want him out of the building right now. If he smiles, I want him in here to answer what's so damn funny."
In his complaint, Bentley says when the bailiff came into the waiting room following Watkins' tirade, he asked, "What in the world is wrong with the Judge?" He then suggested the bailiff get Watkins "a glass of bourbon and give him 2 Xanax to calm him down."
Bentley said he was genuinely concerned for Watkins as "he was my lawyer once back in 1996 in which he was a very nice man."
Nevertheless, Bentley said the bailiff returned a couple of minutes later and "told me the Judge wanted me to leave."
Initially, Bentley thought the order to leave was just from the family court's waiting room. A few minutes after he sat down in the lobby across from the circuit clerk's office, Bentley said one of the court marshals from downstairs and told him Watkins' order was for him to leave the building, not just the waiting room.
According to his complaint, Bentley complied, and waited in his car until the hearing was concluded. Nevertheless, he avers during the time he was in the courthouse he "was not being disorderly in any way."