By Ammie Ruddle
“This case is a textbook example of a judge’s violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.” These words were written by Judge Michael Lorensen, chairman of the West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board.
It all started on July 11, 2021, when Judge Carter Williams had his cell phone in his hand while driving and got pulled over by Moorefield Police Officer Deavonta Johnson.
During the traffic stop, Williams not only berated Johnson, but called several local officials, including Johnson’s immediate supervisor.
In addition, Williams spent several hours contacting officials after the traffic stop concluded.
The hearing board consisted of three circuit judges, one magistrate, one family court judge, either one mental hygiene commissioner, a juvenile referee, a special commissioner, a special master, or a former judge or justice, on either the state or federal level, and three members of the public.
Members of the board determined that there was clear and convincing evidence that Williams failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. The hearing also decided that Williams improperly made threats to use his power as a judge to retaliate for a traffic stop.
Finally, the board concluded that there was clear and convincing evidence that Williams invoked his judicial office in a manner that was less than patient, dignified, and courteous with Johnson, the officer’s supervisor, the police chief, the former police chief and the mayor.
On June 14, the case was heard before Lorensen, sitting as hearing examiner by designation for the Judicial Hearing Board.
On Aug. 31 both parties submitted evidence for their case.
Finally on Sept. 19, the board conducted a telephonic meeting to conclude the case against Judge Williams.
The recommended punishments for these crimes are Williams would serve unpaid suspension for at least three months but it could extend up to one year. He will pay a $5,000 fine as well as he could pay more than $11,000 of the costs to address his case. Last, Williams would also be censured for multiple violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.