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Courtroom video depicts abusive conduct by judge

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The Judicial Update

July 8, 2012

West Virginia: A West Virginia judge is not being reprimanded by the West Virginia Supreme Court administrator after he screamed at a pastor during a divorce hearing.[1]

Judge William Watkins, who has served as a family court judge for 10 years, recused himself from Reverend Arthur Hage's divorce case, and therefore Stephen Canterbury, the West Virginia Supreme Court administrator, stated that a complaint from him is not needed. Canterbury commented that "I think the judge is embarrassed, and certainly contrite, about his outburst and I think he has rightfully recused himself."[1]

A video of the courtroom proceedings shows Judge Watkins screaming at Reverend Arthur Hage in the courtroom. The video was posted online soon after Hage decided to sue the judge for the handling of his divorce case.[1]

Judge Watkins believes that Hage is personally responsible for posting a photo of the home of the judge on a news website. Judge Watkins has stated that his property has been vandalized several times since the photo has appeared online. Hage said he had nothing to do with the photo or the story that accompanied it.[1]

In the video, Judge Watkins is shown saying to Hage, "You put up a picture of my house. Because of you, my wife is there alone, and my house has been vandalized four times. You realize that, of course, as I'm sure you're probably in on it and laughing about it."[2]

Judge Watkins goes on to say, "You, you disgusting piece of ..." pausing and then continuing, "I swear to you. You're responsible. I'm holding you personably responsible for anything that happens to my house. I promise you that if see so much as anyone blanketing my home, my wife, my family, you and me are going to have a problem....Well, buddy, it's personal. It's personal, and I can promise you, you will not hear the end of if from me."[2]

Hage has said he has filed numerous complaints against Judge Watkins to the state Judicial Investigation Commission. Hage has also appealed his divorce from Lillian Hage to the Supreme Court, claiming she never would have filed for divorce has she been in her "right mind." The appeal was still pending.[1]

Lillian Hage's attorney, Christine Wallace, wrote to the Charleston Gazette that she was "appalled that Mr. Hage released to the public and media a video of confidential family court proceedings." This however is not something new, as many videos of confidential court proceedings are appearing on social media outlets and there is no rule stopping this.[1]

Reverend Arthur Hage has sued Judge Watkins for 5 million dollars, alleging that Judge Watkins was not in the right granting a lifetime domestic-violence petition to Lillian Hage, in addition to not forcing Lillian Hage to undergo a mental evaluation before the divorce was granted. Judge John Cummings of the Cabell Circuit will be assigned to this lawsuit.[1]

It is the state Code of Judicial Conduct that "A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity."[1]

See also


West VirginiaSupreme Court of Appeals of West VirginiaWest Virginia Circuit CourtsWest Virginia Family CourtsWest Virginia Magistrate CourtsWest Virginia Municipal CourtsUnited States District Court for the Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States District Court for the Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Northern District of West VirginiaUnited States bankruptcy court, Southern District of West VirginiaUnited States Court of Appeals for the Fourth CircuitWest Virginia countiesWest Virginia judicial newsWest Virginia judicial electionsJudicial selection in West VirginiaWestVirginiaTemplate.jpg