Now in Legal Rebels:
Posted Jul 02, 2012 09:32 pm CDT
Updated: An official recording of a May family court hearing in West Virginia is becoming an unexpected YouTube hit. It quickly topped more than 10,000 views, after a pastor who is a party in the divorce case at issue got hold of it and conveyed it to a wider audience, and it was nearing the 80,000 mark after about nine days online.
In addition to using the tape to bolster his complaint last month to the state Judicial Investigation Commission about Putnam County Circuit Court Family Law Judge William M. “Chip” Watkins III, the Rev. Arthur D. Hage, 63, also provided copies to the news media, the West Virginia Record reports.
Hage contends in his complaint that the 58-year-old judge “yelled and screamed” at him during two hearings in May. And, indeed, it appears that the judge, who is off screen, does have a meltdown at various times during the approximately 15-minute hearing.
“Shut up!” an offscreen voice shouts at one point, about midway through the video, after taking issue with Hage about his soft-spoken comments concerning a claimed termite issue in the marital home that the minister says he can’t in good conscience sell to someone else.
After castigating Hage for telling “a damn lie,” the jurist continues to rebuff Hage’s efforts to offer his thoughts. Although there are times of calm, the judge also erupts at Hage repeatedly.
“I didn’t tell you to talk. … Are you deaf?” says the judge at one point.
“Shut up! I didn’t ask you to speak,” he tells Hage at another.
As a subsequent Charleston Gazette article explains, the judge thought that the minister was responsible for putting a photo of his home on a newspaper website and potentially putting his family at risk as a result. However, Hage denies any involvement.
Hage did recently file a civil suit against the judge over his handling of the divorce, though, and also says he has made multiple complaints about Watkins to the Judicial Investigation Commission.
Watkins didn’t respond to the Record’s efforts to obtain comment. He told the Charleston Daily Mail he intends to recuse himself from the case.
Hat tip: Above the Law.
ABAJournal.com: “State Supreme Court Administrator Won’t Pile Another Complaint on Judge in YouTube Video”
Jonathan Turley: “West Virginia Judge Charged With Abusive Conduct Depicted in Courtroom Video”
Updated on July 5 to include updated YouTube viewing tally and background information from Charleston Gazette, as well as link to additional coverage.