Judges

DisHonorable C. Carter Williams, an Outlaw Judge in West Virginia Faces Discipline

The range of possible punishment for Judge Williams ranges from admonishment to a fine to suspension to loss of his law license.

Ethics hearing concludes in judge’s case, with his peers to decide if he crossed the line

JUN 16, 2022 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: JUN 23, 2022

An ethics hearing focused on whether a West Virginia judge pulled rank after a traffic stop has concluded, with members of the Judicial Hearing Board laying the groundwork for recommendations in the case over the next few months.

“This is one where I wish we had a jury so someone else could make the hard decision, but that’s not the hand we’ve been dealt,” said Judge Michael Lorensen, a Berkeley circuit judge who presided over the three-day judicial ethics hearing, praising lawyers on each side for the quality of their presentations.

The ethics case of Judge Carter Williams of Hardy County was heard over three days by members of the Judicial Hearing Board: three circuit judges, one magistrate, one family court judge, one mental hygiene commissioner, juvenile referee, special commissioner, special master, or former judge or justice, state or federal, and three members of the public.

The range of possible punishment for Judge Williams ranges from admonishment to a fine to suspension to loss of his law license. The state Supreme Court has the last word in these cases.

Allegations against the judge include running afoul of compliance with the law, undermining confidence in the judiciary, eroding the prestige of judicial office, diminishing the ideals of impartiality and fairness and violating codes of judicial and professional conduct.

Scrutiny began July 11, 2021, when Williams went out for ice cream with his family, started to drive home, picked up a cell phone he had dropped, got pulled over by Moorefield Police Officer Deavonta Johnson for having the phone in his hand while driving, berated the patrolman, and called multiple local officials, including the patrolman’s supervisor while the traffic stop was still going on.

“What’s the problem?” Williams asks as the officer approaches his stopped vehicle.

“How you doing sir?” says Johnson, the patrolman. “The reason I was stopping you…”

The judge interjects: “Judge Williams. Why did you stop me?”

Williams took the stand this week to acknowledge flying off the handle, but he denied trying to leverage the authority and prestige of his office.

“From Day 1, I said that my conduct on July 11 last year was unbecoming of a judge. I said it was disrespectful and rude,” he testified.

He later added, “I made a federal case out of it. Just silly. Made a federal case out of it. I’ve regretted it since and tried to make right on it since.”

Investigators say that in the hours following the traffic stop, Williams called the supervising officer, Lt. Melody Burrows, multiple times, called Moorefield Police Chief Stephen Riggleman and called the town’s former police chief Steve Reckart.

In testimony Tuesday, Reckart recounted “that he was expressing his displeasure in some of the criminal cases that were being brought to his court and advised that he had some leeway in some of those cases but that he might look at them tighter in the future.”

Moorefield Mayor Carol Zuber testified this week that Judge Williams went to her home about 10 p.m. the night of the traffic stop.

“He was upset,” Zuber recalled. “He said, ‘You know I really hate to do this to you, but you’ll have to do something with the police officers’ and then proceeded to tell me that he was pulled over because they accused him of holding his cell phone, talking on his cell phone.”

She continued, “He made the indication that all of my officers, that I needed to straighten them up. He said they were a bunch of young men, that they were kids.”

The judge testified that he never said he would change the rulings in his courtroom based on the views he had expressed.

“I never said I was going to change my rulings. Wouldn’t have done that, would never do that,” he said.

Alleged Walmart walkouts lead to new ethics charge against ‘distracted’ judge

A West Virginia judge is facing a new ethics charge alleging that he failed to pay for scanned items at a Walmart, delaying a disciplinary trial stemming from his response to a police officer who pulled him over for holding a cellphone.

The judge is Judge C. Carter Williams of Moorefield in Hardy County, West Virginia.

The West Virginia MetroNews and the West Virginia Record have stories on the allegations by the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission.

According to the initial ethics complaint, filed Oct. 25, Williams complained about the Moorefield, West Virginia, officer who pulled him over to a police lieutenant, the police chief, the retired police chief and the mayor.

During his interaction with the officer, he spoke in an “angry tone” and argued about the basis for the traffic stop, the ethics complaint said. Body cam video is here.

The officer had pulled Williams over in July 2021. Williams was quick to identify himself as a judge and told the officer that he was holding his cellphone because he just found it in his car after losing it. The phone was not on, he said.

The officer didn’t issue a ticket for the cellphone violation based on the direction of the police lieutenant Williams had called. A check indicated that Williams was also driving on an expired license.

The officer was African American. When complaining about the officer to supervisors, Williams referred to him as “your boy” and “one of your boys,” the ethics complaint said.

When the mayor promised to look at the body cam recording, Williams “hung his head and for the first time disclosed that he had been an ‘a- -hole’ during the stop,” the ethics complaint said.

The police chief later ticketed Williams for improper use of a cellphone and driving on an expired license. Williams pleaded no contest to the expired license charge, and the cellphone charge was dropped.

The new ethics charge, filed Feb. 14, said Williams scanned about 10 items at a Walmart self-checkout in August 2021 and then left without paying. He later paid for the items when contacted and said the failure to pay was a mistake. He did not report the incident to the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission.

It wasn’t the first incident, the ethics complaint said. Williams had also failed to pay for self-scanned items valued at $300 at a Walmart in July 2020. Walmart determined that incident was accidental.

The Walmart loss prevention officer said Williams appeared “distracted” during both incidents, which happened after he would “get to talking to somebody and not pay” for his items before walking out.

It’s unclear whether there was a third Walmart walkout. The complaint noted an August 2019 text exchange with the Walmart loss prevention officer in which Williams thanked her for “letting me know about my payment issue.” He said he “had absolutely no idea I did that,” and he added, “It’s called, having too much clutter in one’s brain!!”

Williams had maintained that the first walkout happened in 2019, rather than 2020, for a total of two incidents.

Williams declined to comment when the ABA Journal contacted his office.

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DisHonorable C. Carter Williams, an Outlaw Judge in West Virginia Faces Discipline
2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. P Dobson

    July 14, 2022 at 6:01 pm

    I am very very upset having followed this case.

    I lost my 16 year old daughter in a car accident due to the drivers dangerous driving. The dangerous driving was not looking out of front window but instead looking down to put a cd in player.

    In that space of time my innocent daughter lost her life. It changed us all drastically as a family.

    This judge looked down to find his phone and then kept hold of it in his hand.

    This is exactly how my daughter died.

    This judge was saved, yes saved from himself by this brilliant police officer. The police officer did the completely right thing and stopped a possible tragic accident even death.

    That judge I really should not be a judge. He is looked up to (?) and judges these sort of cases. He has an obvious anger problem.
    Shame on him!!

    As regards the police officer, well done. You need promotion. I wish you had been there for my daughter. Things may have ended up so differently.

    I am so so angry.

    P Dobinson

  2. John Cook

    July 15, 2022 at 4:32 pm

    This reminds me of another Vest Virginia Judge that believed himself above the law, the infamous William Watkins III.
    Judge Carter is worse in the sense that his ire was directed at a law enforcement officer simply doing his job. The Police Lieutenant should be charged as well.
    I hope Vest Virginia will do the right thing and dump these corrupt people.

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