Chip Watkins, you’re not going to be a judge anymore

By The West Virginia Record | Apr 12, 2013

It never ceases to amaze, how often some members of any given profession will circle wagons around a repugnant colleague, accused of doing something they themselves find abhorrent, and defend the individual to the bitter end – even though the miscreant represents the antithesis of everything they believe.

Doctors, lawyers, police officers, priests, politicians, careerists of every kind – they do it not infrequently. They protect a hack or a hustler in their ranks from the consequences of corrupt character and shoddy practices.

What motivates them to defend the one who makes all look bad? Why do they embrace instead of spurn the villain? Is it misplaced mercy? Damage control for the profession?

Whatever the reason, it’s ill-conceived and counterproductive. The only way to maintain high standards in any profession is to enforce them, and that means reprimanding, ostracizing, stigmatizing, penalizing, and ultimately banishing the transgressor.

That’s what the state Supreme Court has just done to Putnam County Family Law Judge William M. “Chip” Watkins III, and all we can say is “Hallelujah! It’s about time!”

It’s time the good people told the bad people to stop.

Last month, following the recommendations of its Judicial Hearing Board, the Court censured Watkins for 24 violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and ordered him suspended until completion of his term on Dec. 31, 2016.

Watkins was accused of a total lack of decorum and respect for the people who appeared before him and failing the judicial system as well.

“The overriding goal of judicial discipline is to preserve public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary,” Justice Menis E. Ketchum explained in the 27-page opinion stating the Court’s decision. “That confidence was plainly sullied by the actions of Judge Watkins.”

So it was.

There will always be winners and losers in court, and the losers will be unhappy. But, if we want “government of the people, by the people, for the people,” we must punish public servants whenever they start to act like masters.

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