On December 2, 2022, the Judicial Investigation Commission of West Virginia publicly admonished David Hummel, Jr., a former Judge of the 2nd Judicial Court of West Virginia, for violation of the Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings. The case is entitled “In the matter of David Hummel, Jr.,” with case no. 37-2022.

The charges cited West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 2.8(b) and West Virginia Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceeding 8(a) which state:

A judge shall comply with the law, including the West Virginia Code of Judicial Conduct.

A Judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of the judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others or allow others to do so.

A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, (B) witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity.

The West Virginia Code of Conduct can be found here.

The respondent handled a case that involved a case of Abuse and Neglect petition stating that a natural father of two minor daughters had sexually abused them. Allegedly, while handling the said case, the respondent violated the West Virginia Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings. 

The filing states:

“Both children were reluctant witnesses. Both were easily distracted during their respective interviews. At the very beginning of her interview, the elder child indicated that she did not want to discuss the allegations. At certain times, both children hid under a table in the judge’s chambers. During the interview, Respondent repeatedly accused the elder daughter, then age seven, of lying which in turn brought her to tears. Respondent concluded that the younger daughter, then age six, had implicated the mother in a “sinister” plot to falsify allegations against the father even though the judge was the first person to use the word “plan” when questioning the little girl.”

The filing continues:

“On August 21, 2020, Respondent issued a final order in the matter holding that the children were not abused or neglected and dismissing the petition. In the final order, Respondent failed to make the requisite findings of fact and conclusions of law as required by W. Va. Code $ 40-4-601(1). The Supreme Court remanded the matter back to Respondent by order entered March 16, 2021, with instructions to “forthwith issue a new order containing the findings of fact and conclusions of law necessary to establish whether the children were abused and/or neglected.”

The filing further states:

“On or about April 7, 2021, Respondent issued a revised final order which held that there was no clear and convincing evidence of any abuse or neglect by the father, reinstating the parenting time ordered previously by the Family Court and dismissing the action from the active docket. The matter was again appealed to the Supreme Court. In the May 27, 2022 opinion, the State Supreme Court found that Respondent violated Rule 8(a) of the West Virginia Rules of Procedure for Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings (“WVRPCANP”), Rules 611(a)3) and (c) of the West Virginia Rules of Evidence (“wVRE”) and established case precedent on leading witnesses in his questioning of the children. Based upon this, the Court vacated the lower court’s order dismissing the abuse and neglect petition and remanded the matter back to a different judge for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.”

In another case, the respondent entered an order allowing all circuit court judges, family court judges, Supreme Court Justices, and Senior Status Judges to “possess a firearm in and about the premises constituting Courthouses and/or Magistrate Courts throughout the 2n Judicial Circuit”. The Order further stated that “all such persons shall take reasonable and necessary measures to ensure that any firearm he or she may possess on the aforesaid premises is concealed such that same is not displayed.” However, the respondent violated his own order in his own courtroom.

The filing additional notes:

“During a rare Saturday hearing in a civil case that occurred on March 12, 2022, Respondent removed a firearm from a place of concealment on his person and put it on the bench in open view for the remainder of the proceeding. At one point, he picked up the gun and displayed it for all to see. The act was captured on a Court security video. Stories about the incident went viral in the national news subsequent to the incident. As a result of the investigation into these matters, JDC entered into an agreement signed by Respondent’s attorney and Respondent on or about November 23, 2022, in which he agreed to immediately resign from his judgeship, to never again seek judicial office in West Virginia by election or appointment, and to accept an admonishment from the JIC for violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct as a result of his behavior outlined above.”

In looking for the appropriate sanction, the Commission found that formal discipline was not essential as the Respondent had agreed to immediately resign as judge and to never again seek judicial office by election or appointment. However, the Commission found that the violations were grave enough to warrant a public admonishment.

The Disposition states:

Therefore, it is the decision of the Judicial Investigation Commission that David Hummel Jr, for Judge of the 2d Judicial Circuit, be disciplined by this Admonishment. Accordingly, the Judicial Investigation Commission hereby publicly admonishes former Judge Hummel for his conduct as fully set forth in the matters asserted herein.”

The Judge earned a law degree from the Oklahoma College of Law in 1995.

The Judge’s courtroom is located at 600 Seventh Street Moundsville, WV 26041, and can be reached at 304-845-3505.  His info can be found on Ballotpedia.com

A copy of the original filing can be found here.