West Virginia Record

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Watkins' rulings challenged three times in 2011

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 3, 2012

WINFIELD – Records show Putnam Family Law Judge William Watkins' decisions were questioned in three other writs of mandamus or prohibition last year including the same case twice.

Last month, Scott Depot resident Terry Hamm filed a writ of prohibition in Putnam Circuit Court challenging Watkins' order forfeiting $11,000 his father posted as bond to secure Terry's appearance at a rescheduled child support hearing. Hamm and his attorney, Joe Reeder, showed up late for a Nov. 17 hearing believing it was for later in the afternoon when it was actually in the morning.

In his writ, Hamm alleges Watkins erred in not only failing to reschedule the child support hearing, but also hold a hearing on forfeiting the $11,000 bond without giving him prior notice.

Like Hamm, John J. Black and Tammy and Stacy Kelley, accused Watkins of legal mischief in their cases. Black, not once, but twice last year filled a writ of mandamus accusing Watkins of foot-dragging on finalizing his divorce, and the Kelleys asked that a stop be put to Watkins' order finding that another man was the father of their daughter, and he be given custody of her.

Black's first writ of mandamus was filed a year ago. In it, he asked Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding to order Watkins to finalize equitable distribution of property in the divorce between he and his wife, Nancy.

According to court records, Watkins granted their divorce petition on Nov. 14, 2008. However, along with the sale of their home, Black alleged Watkins had yet to make a determination on a qualified domestic relations order on their pensions.

Records show, Spaulding on Feb. 7 granted Black's writ, and ordered Watkins to hold a hearing on the final distribution of property within 30 days. For reasons not immediately clear, the hearing was not held until June 1.

When Watkins failed to make a ruling by Oct. 24, Black filed his second writ of mandamus. Through his attorney, Mark Kelley, Black said "the family court's delay of nearly five months in rendering a decision is unreasonable particularly given the length of time involved since the petition was originally filed, and puts [Black] in the position of having to expend, for a second time, unnecessary legal fees to force [Watkins] to perform his required duty."

Judge Phillip M. Stowers on Dec. 20 agreed saying Black "is entitled to have an order entered from the June 1, 2011 hearing." In granting Black's second writ of mandamus, Stowers ordered Watkins to issue a final decision on the Black's property by Feb. 20.

Shortly after rending his decision in Black's first writ of mandamus, Spaulding was asked to render a decision in the Kelley's case. They were seeking a reversal of Watkins' order finding that James Lawrence Deweese was the father of their daughter, Chelsea Marie Kelley.

Records show, Deweese filed a paternity suit on Jan. 5, 2011 claiming he, and not Stacy, was Chelsea's father. The Kelleys, who were legally separated at the time, attached both Chelsea's birth certificate dated Sept. 6, 2006, and an acknowledgement of paternity Stacy signed the next day to their writ as evidence Stacy was Chelsea's father.

Following a Feb. 16 hearing, in which Deweese appeared in person with his attorney, Rosa Juba-Plumley, and Tammy via telephone and pro se, Watkins the next day entered an ex parte order on Deweese's behalf. In his order, Watkins said a genetic test to prove actual paternity would not be in Chelsea's best interest, and determined Deweese was her legal father.

Through their attorney, Tim Carrico, the Kelleys objected to Watkins' order on the grounds that Deweese failed to name Stacy as a co-defendant in his paternity suit as well as service him notice of it, and did not allow Tammy to see his order to make objections to it.

"The lower court entered a drastic order without complying with clear statutory requirements and allowing for an appropriate investigation and a meaningful final hearing on the issues," they said. In their writ, the Kelleys asked that Watkins' Feb. 17 ex parte order be vacated, and Spaulding order a genetic test to determine paternity as required by statute, a meaningful hearing to determine if Deweese is entitled to be Chelsea's psychological parent and an award of court costs and attorney fees.

However, Spaulding on March 3 denied the Kelley's' writ saying "they have other adequate remedies available to them," namely an appeal, and stay of the final order.

Putnam Circuit Court case numbers 11-C-9 (Black writ of mandamus I), 11-C-65 (Kelley writ of mandamus/prohibition) and 11-C-303 (Black writ of mandamus II)

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