Family court judge agrees to suspension after disrespectful courtroom comments

A family court judge in the Eastern Panhandle has been found by his peers of treating people in his court disrespectfully, casually threatening to take away people’s children, making dismissive comments about women and sometimes swearing or reacting in anger.

The judge also had choice words for state Supreme Court justices over a computer laptop dispute.

Family Circuit Judge David Camilletti reached an agreement with the Judicial Disciplinary Counsel, which investigates judges accused of wrongdoing. The judge would be subject to a month’s unpaid suspension followed by a probationary period up to a year, public reprimand and professional counseling.

The Judicial Hearing Board, represented by judges from around the state, agreed to accept the recommendations. The state Supreme Court would have the final say.

Camilletti has been a family court judge in Charles Town for about seven years. Initially, in 2015, he was appointed to the role by then-Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. The 24th Family Court Circuit covers Berkeley and Jefferson counties.

A filing in the case indicates that Camilletti acknowledged “on multiple occasions, he failed to treat litigants appearing before him in his courtroom with respect and dignity and failed to maintain decorum and order in his courtroom to the detriment of the integrity of the court.”

The filing continued by saying, “the parties also acknowledge and agree that Respondent is genuinely remorseful for his conduct and transgressions, and that he has been working diligently since the Complaints were filed against him to conform his behavior and demeanor to that which is expected and required of him by the West Virginia Code of Conduct.”

A formal statement of charges details 17 separate counts against Camilletti.

For example, during a 2020 hearing, a mother alleged that the father was trying to alienate their child from her. The judge threatened to place the child in foster care if the father was lying in the courtroom. “If he is in bad faith and he is trying to make a plan, then he loses custody forever and the child ends up in foster care,” the judge said that day.

In another 2020 hearing, the judge became irritated with the parties about their inability to resolve a visitation dispute. “You don’t know?” the judge asked. “I’ll take the child and put it up for adoption then.”

In another 2020 hearing, the judge got upset and cursed when a litigant did not provide proof that he had complied with a court-ordered drug program. The judge ordered the man to retrieve documents from a rehabilitation center and threw a file at him. “You have until 5 o’clock today or you’re going to jail,” the judge said.

During a 2021 hearing, the judge asked a female litigant about the number of children and male companions she has.

The judge, at the end of a hearing: “All right. Stay out of trouble.”

Female litigant: “I will. I always do.”

The judge: “Really?”

Litigant: “Yes sir.”

The judge: “All these children? All those men?”

Litigant: “Yes, but just two dads.”

In another 2021 hearing, the judge drifted into social relations and gender stereotypes.

Lawyer for female litigant, commenting on a scheduling matter: “There was one other thing. She’s getting married August 28th.”

Respondent: “Am I invited? Does she have any female friends?”

Lawyer: (Laughs.)

Judge: “Keep going.”

Lawyer: “Just [youngest child of litigants] is coming to the wedding because the two older don’t want to. So…”

Judge: “What? Get them in here. They’re going to the wedding. They are so going to the wedding.”

Male litigant: “They refuse.”

Judge: “I know. They’re women.”

Judge continues: They’re doing it to see how much they can get away with, OK? Pure and simple. And they’ll figure it (their relationship) with their Mom on their own when you’re not looking. Just sayin’.

Male litigant: “Yes, sir.”

Judge: “Did I already say it’s because they’re women?”

Lawyer for female litigant: “Yes.”

The formal statement of charges detailed several other instances that were similar to those.

Several additional counts related to the judge’s interactions with the information technologies department for the state Supreme Court on August 4 and 5, 2021.

The situation began when a field technician was directed to pick up computer laptops that had been assigned to a family court judge who was retiring. When the technician tried to remove a laptop from a vacant courtroom, Judge Camilletti objected.

Judge Camilletti told the technician that another court system laptop assigned to the retiring judge was in Jefferson County. But Judge Camilletti told the technician that if he tried to remove the laptop then he would be charged with stealing court equipment.

The next day, a user support services manager called Judge Camilletti’s office with heads up that the field technician would be heading to Jefferson County to pick up the laptop there. The judge replied that he didn’t intend to fight with the manager but that he did not care what Supreme Court justices had to say. He characterized himself as “a judge that refuses to obey and is now going to be obstinate.”

The judge went on to say that if the court did not install a computer at every station where he presides then he would buy his own computer and hire his own personal hacker to get him into the court’s system.

When the technician arrived to remove the computer, the judge commented that if Supreme Court justices disapprove of the way he was using the equipment then they could disengage from the situation in a way the judge used vulgar slang to describe. The judge told the respondent he’s probably the only court official would would suggest that to justices, but he had no problem doing so.

Finally, the judge reiterated his idea of hiring his own personal hacker, adding that he knew enough bad people that could get it done.

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