The Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission recommended on Wednesday that the Supreme Court of Virginia censure or remove Juvenile and Domestic Relations District James Michael Shull.
JIRC found that Shull on Dec. 15 twice directed a woman involved in a custody dispute to twice lower her pants in the courtroom, while at least six other people were present. The woman contended that the father of her two children had stabbed her thigh, while the father responded that he had not done so and alleged that any such wound was self-inflicted.
In addition to examining the injury, Shull recessed the hearing and called from his chambers the emergency room where the woman said she had received stitches.
The commission also concluded that Shull had violated judicial ethics by tossing a coin to decide which parent would have the preferred custodial time for their children on Christmas Day.
In a formal response to the commission’s initial allegations, Shull acknowledged that he should have handled the first hearing in a more sensitive manner. But he emphasized that only court personnel, the father and his attorney were in the courtroom at the time and that the nature and severity of the mother’s injury were “absolutely critical to resolve the factual and credibility issues before the Court.”
Shull said he decided the Christmas custody by a coin toss because “the equities were in equipoise” and he wanted to illustrate to the parents there were in the best position to resolve such issues. He usually sits in Scott County in the state’s 30th Judicial District, but both of the cases cited by JIRC were in Wise County. He was appointed to the bench in April 2003.
JIRC suspended Shull with pay shortly after the December hearing and held hearings in the case in January and in April.