Friday, December 14, 2012

West Virginia Board Recommends Judge’s Suspension Until 2016 In Part Based On His Demeanor In Disciplinary Hearing

You may remember my previous posts on a video (apparently a big hit on You Tube) in which a judge totally loses control during a divorce hearing and starts yelling at one of the parties.  See here (includes the video), here and here.  After one of the parties complained, the West Virginia Supreme Court announced that no charges would be filed against the judge, but later it was announced that the state's Judicial Investigation Commission would consider charges against the judge. 

The claim has now been decided and the Commission has ruled the judge shoudl be suspended for the rest of his term - until 2016 - at least in part because of his attitude toward the complainants during the proceedings.

Professor Jonathan Turley, who has been following the case closely in his blog since the beginning, has a comment on the decision here.  He argues that he is "a bit uncomfortable with crossed arms and a glare being any basis for a recommendation, but demeanor is a classic factor in evaluating a witness or an accused party." 

The judge's attitude during the hearing was not the only basis for discipline, though.  The Commission also found that he "routinely engaged in injudicious conduct and “demonstrated a preference for using threats, intimidation, profanity and shouting rather than the tools available to judges, including civil and criminal contempt, to deal with admittedly difficult litigants.”