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Hearing set on charges against Putnam family judge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two sets of ethics charges filed by the state Judicial Investigation Commission against Putnam Family Court Judge William Watkins were consolidated Friday.

The state Judicial Hearing Board will handle both sets of charges against Watkins during a hearing at 10 a.m. on Nov. 27 in Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey's courtroom at the Kanawha County Judicial annex, according to a scheduling order filed by the hearing board Friday.

Watkins is facing seven charges alleging he delayed rulings, failed to enter domestic violence orders into the state's tracking system and screamed and cursed at litigants.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme Court voted 3-2 not to suspend him without pay until the charges against him are settled. Justices Brent Benjamin, Menis Ketchum and Thomas McHugh voted not to suspend Watkins. Justices Robin Davis and Margaret Workman voted to suspend him.

Watkins was first served with charges Aug. 10 alleging he failed to rule on motions, even after circuit judges told him to, and failing to enter domestic-violence orders into the state's tracking system.

On Aug. 31, the commission filed five additional charges against Watkins. Those are based on its investigation of complaints from people who appeared in front of Watkins, and primarily involve the judge's behavior in hearings, including allegations of shouting and profanity.

Watkins has filed his official response in the Supreme Court to the first set of charges. As part of the response, Watkins said he would "make every effort" to review all orders in a timely manner, make sure domestic-violence orders are entered into the state's tracking system the same day, attend education and training programs and make sure all phone calls are answered or dealt with within 24 hours.

Last month, Watkins blamed an overwhelming caseload for the problems outlined in the first set of charges. He hasn't formally responded to the later charges.

Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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