Both candidates for Putnam County circuit judge promise to rule over a courtroom with fairness and decorum.
Republican Joe Reeder and Democrat Robert Leslie met with members of the Daily Mail Editorial Board on Monday. They admitted that the topic of judicial temperament is one that might be on the minds of Putnam voters this year.
That's because Putnam Family Court Judge William Watkins is facing ethics charges from the state Supreme Court, which alleges that he has screamed at parties in domestic cases and exhibited rude behavior.
Reeder, 46, of Hurricane, said, "Based on my past experience, I believe I possess the knowledge and temperament to do the job. Humor is necessary and you must be able to tolerate the things that face you as a judge.
"Hopefully, after the election I'll be getting that bench experience, and I hope never to see myself on YouTube," he said.
Leslie was appointed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to temporarily replace Judge O.C. Spaulding, who stepped down after revealing that he had Lou Gehrig's disease. Leslie was sworn in in mid-June.
"Yes, things aggravate you on the bench," he acknowledged. "But if you lose your decorum, that's disgraceful."
He cited a case involving a defendant convicted of the abuse of his child. The man was requesting a review of his prison sentence and family members turned out to support him.
"That one made me angry," Leslie said. "I listened to the arguments, walked back to my chambers and came back and issued a ruling. I had to stop and think about what I wanted to say."
That kind of cool-off period can be a good tool, he said.
"The bench is here; the door is there," Leslie said. "You can step out if you need to."
Reeder said, "Outbursts from the bench, that's the kind of thing I'm never going to do. The courtroom is a serious and important place and everyone in there should act respectfully.