'My guns are bigger,' judge allegedly declared before pointing Colt .45 at lawyers in courtroom
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A Houston lawyer has submitted an affidavit alleging that a West Virginia judge removed a gun from a holster under his robe and pointed it at attorneys defending an energy company.
The lawyer, Lauren Varnado, is a managing partner of the Houston office of Michelman & Robinson. She said Judge David W. Hummel Jr. of New Martinsville, West Virginia, pulled out the gun March 12 at an attorneys-only hearing after refusing to let Varnado’s personal security guard accompany her into the courtroom.
The Daily Beast, Law360, the West Virginia Record and NBC News have stories.
“Aren’t me and my guns and security enough? My guns are bigger than your security’s guns!” Hummel allegedly said as he reached for his gun, which Varnado said he told her was a Colt .45, according to Law360.
Varnado alleged that Hummel pointed the gun at the defense table where her co-counsel sat and then at the podium where she was standing. Hummel then set the gun down on the bench and rotated it, so that it was pointed directly at Varnado, she alleged. The gun remained there for the duration of the hearing, according to Varnado.
Varnado said she hired private security after lawyers on her team were threatened at a New Martinsville restaurant. Varnado was defending the EQT Production Co. in a suit by landowners who sued after EQT reduced their royalty payments for natural gas extracted from their property.
Before pulling the gun out of his holster, Hummel said he only recently learned that the people with Varnado were security, according to a court transcript cited by the West Virginia Record.
Referring to one of the private security guards, Hummel said: “I got this man here carrying a man purse, which I make fun of him every damn day for wearing such a sissy-ass contraption. And I hear he has blood coagulant. I have blood coagulant up here too, and I’ve got lots of guns. Like, bigger ones too.”
Varnado reported the incident to the FBI.
At other times, the affidavit said, Hummel used profanity and ridiculed the defense team from the bench. At least once, the affidavit alleged, Hummel yelled at Varnado in front of the jury, calling her “despicable” and saying the court “deserved better than this bulls- - -.”
Varnado had sought to disqualify the judge in January 2021 because his parents received oil and gas royalties that could pass to him in the future. That led to “bad blood” between the defense lawyers and Hummel, according to Law360. Appellate courts said Hummel did not have to recuse himself.
The case recently settled, according to the Daily Beast. A joint motion sought dismissal of the case after seven days of testimony.
Hummel gave differing accounts of what happened to the Daily Beast. At first, he said the incident never happened, and he didn’t have his gun that day in the courtroom. Then he called back and said he had a gun under his robe during the trial, but he never removed it from the holster during the trial. When he called back a third time, Hummel told the Daily Beast that he pulled out a first-aid kit but not a gun on the day in question.
The Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia is now investigating, according to the Daily Beast. The commission told Law360 and NBC News that it couldn’t confirm or deny an investigation.