A gun brandished in a courtroom. It’s a shocking thought. Maybe even more so if it was allegedly done by a judge.
Last week, 7News first learned of these allegations against Second Judicial Circuit Judge David W. Hummel Jr.
A Houston-based attorney claims that during the trial, Judge Hummel pulled out a gun to make a point about personal protection.
Judge Hummel reached out to us about the allegations and says he isn’t permitted to comment at this time, but the attorney says she felt there was non-stop abuse during the trial.
This was just so far beyond anything I could of ever imagined.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
The case was Huey et al v. EQT which was tried in March in a New Martinsville courtroom.
Attorney Lauren Varnado is an oil and gas trial lawyer who represents EQT. She said the case and issues with it began before March when her team moved to have Second Judicial Circuit Judge David Hummel Jr. disqualified from the case.
We had moved to disqualify Judge Hummel from the case after learning he and his family also own minerals, meaning they’re also parties to leases. So similarly aligned with the plaintiffs in our case.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
However, Judge Hummel was not disqualified.
I actually was pretty shocked at how personally offended he was by the motion, but it kind of laid the groundwork for everything to come.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
The trial began in March and Varnado said they’d been at trial a week when Judge Hummel’s alleged abusive behavior began.
We begin our opening statement and he loses it. He just lost it. He dismisses the jury, screamed at us for approximately 30-45 minutes. He didn’t like our opening statement.
That was kind of the beginning of no-stop abuse. Everyday at trial you never knew what was going to set him off.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
That was a Monday.
Varnado tells 7News that Judge Hummel screamed at her in front of the entire courtroom additional times thought the week. She claims Judge Hummel also screamed at her team in front of a gallery full of people, even with the jury still present after cross-examining a witness.
It’s not that it wasn’t still shocking, but considering the week we had had it was almost like it was the natural progression of where things were headed.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
She was worried for herself and for her staff, especially after receiving threats from outside the courtroom that week. So, Varnado hired security.
Then Varnado explains she was called in on a Saturday for a special hearing. That’s just one of many events she described as unusual, including that her security officer wasn’t allowed in the court and the plaintiff’s legal team was not present in person.
That’s when Varnado alleges another confrontation with Judge Hummel happened, while he expressed his displeasure at her hiring security.
He claimed that he didn’t know that they were security until I guess the day before and was basically like ‘how am I just now finding this out? Why would you have security?’ That’s when ‘aren’t my guns and security enough?’ I mean, he walked around all the time with his robe open. I saw his gun.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
Varnado told 7News that Judge Hummel pulled out a gun, deliberately making sure it was pointing at her when he placed it in front of him.
Varnado reported the incident to the FBI in Pittsburgh and was assured it was safe to go back to court.
The Wetzel County Sheriff was actually on the plaintiff’s witness list, so you can imagine I’m not going to call the Wetzel County police.
The West Virginia State Police, I don’t have any relationships there and I actually felt like because of other issues that it was appropriate to report to federal law enforcement and they were generally aware of the trial and what was happening.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
They went back to court on Monday, where it was suggested that the two parties resolve the case out of court. So, the case was dismissed.
7News reached out to the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission, which is under the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, and received the following statement from Public Information Officer Jennifer Bundy.
“The Judicial Investigation Commission does not confirm or deny whether it is investigating a judicial officer. The existence of an investigation becomes public only when formal ethics charges are filed against that judicial officer or the JIC issues an admonishment. No such charges or an admonishment have been filed against Judge Hummel as of today.”
Varnado said she hopes Judge Hummel is removed from the bench. She told 7News that Judge Hummel’s alleged abuse was not just directed at her, but also at other attorneys in the courtroom.
He treats council who appears before him with contempt, disdain and disrespect. Period.Lauren Varnado, Managing Partner, Michelman & Robinson LLP
Judge Hummel did return requests for comment on Monday afternoon and said he isn’t permitted to speak about the incident at this time. However he said when he able to talk about it, he will share his side with us.
The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission said no charges have been filed against Judge Hummel at this time.