In a formal admonishment issued Friday, state investigators claim that David W. Hummel Jr. abused his power on the bench by diverting money meant for a drug program into a slush fund he oversaw and later tapped for “improper purposes.”
The report also recounts how Hummel brazenly violated judicial ethics rules when he grilled two little girls—who were in court because of allegations that their father had sexually abused them—and questioned them so aggressively that he made them cry.
Hummel “should have known better,” according to the report written by the state’s Judicial Investigation Commission, which polices the conduct of state judges.
“He is a longtime lawyer and former assistant prosecutor,” the report says. “He had absolutely no business calling a child of tender years a liar or suggesting to an impressionable six-year-old that she had engaged in some ‘sinister plan’ regarding her father.”
The commission wasn’t done ripping into Hummel, reminding him that “when dealing with young children, judges should remember at all times that they are not wooden toys that can be repaired with ease. They are living beings with thoughts and feelings who are coming into a huge unknown called ‘court’ to talk to what a child may perceive as a scary individual called ‘judge’ and must be treated with charity, understanding, and patience.”
Hummel did not immediately return calls for comment on Friday.
Hummel, who was elected and has been a local judge since 2009, resigned the day before Thanksgiving. He had become a national pariah—and the subject of jokes within the legal field—after The Daily Beast revealed his intimidating show of bravado earlier this year.
Overseeing a typical West Virginia trial in March involving a dispute over gas company royalties, Hummel began to get annoyed at the corporate lawyers. Transcripts show how he berated them when he called them into a rare weekend hearing mid-trial. It was there that Hummel whipped out his handgun, waved it in the air, and placed it on his wooden bench.
Two witnesses who later reached out to The Daily Beast described how the move was a blatant form of intimidation. When this reporter reached out to hear his side of the story, the judge lied that it never happened—but oddly, kept calling back to add more details to the story. He eventually settled on an inconceivable tale claiming that he had pulled out a “small, red first aid kit” and “blood coagulant.”
But he was adamant that he never pulled out a gun.
“There is no incident… I absolutely, categorically deny I had a gun that day in the courtroom,” he said. “It was just me and the attorneys. I had no reason to have a firearm that day… I've never shown a gun in my courtroom to anybody. I don’t want them to know that I have it. I do not display my firearm at any time during trial.”
Months later, The Daily Beast learned that the local prosecutor—who reached out to a witness only to tell her he wouldn’t even prosecute Hummel’s threatening behavior—knew there existed a copy of courtroom surveillance video. The Daily Beast obtained the video from the local Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office and published it—proving that the judge had lied.
As Hummel’s cowboy stunt made national headlines, his actions were being examined by the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission. The lead investigator spoke to the judge’s own staff, at least one of whom acknowledged that Hummel regularly kept a gun in his chambers—and would absentmindedly leave a firearm lying around in the kitchen and on his desk.
In recent months, Hummel hired his own local attorney and lodged legal threats against one of the corporate lawyers who were at the wrong end of that barrel, Lauren Varnado of Texas. Letters indicate he has considered suing her for defamation. But the threat of any future retaliatory lawsuit seemed to be derailed last month, when Hummel abruptly quit on Nov. 23. His letter was curt and gave no explanation why he was resigning.
“Dear Governor, I write to advise that as of the close of business today, I am resigning the position of Circuit Court Judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. It has been a terrific honor to serve in this role since January of 2009,” he wrote.
The official admonishment revealed at least two other incidents that disqualified him from one of the most powerful positions of authority in West Virginia.
According to the report, the first one happened when Hummel began a campaign to prey on the local program meant to help drug offenders. For the past 20 years, West Virginia has run local community-based centers called “Day Report Programs.” In 2019, Hummel visited three local government commissions asking them to contribute money to a new, privately run option.
When they forked over $90,000, Hummel allegedly gave half of it to the mental health provider—and kept the other $45,000 in a “general receiver” fund where he had “direct control of the money.” Investigators discovered that he pulled the same move in 2020—and misspent the taxpayer money “for improper purposes.”
In a second spate of misbehavior, Hummel held two hearings in the summer of 2020 in which he scolded two little girls who were brought into court because their mother claimed they had been sexually abused by their father–and she was trying to keep him away.
The girls were so uncomfortable that the report stated “both children hid under a table in the judge’s chambers.” Hummel ripped into them anyway.
Hummel “repeatedly accused the elder daughter, then age seven, of lying, which in turn brought her to tears,” the report said.