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West Virginia Judge Pulls Gun During Trial Aims at Attorney in the Courtroom

West Virginia Judge Pulls Gun During Trial Aims at Attorney in the Courtroom

KDKA-TV July 19, 2022

Attorney Lauren Varnado, who was defending a Pittsburgh corporation in a courtroom in New Martinsville, West Virginia, accused Judge David W. Hummel Jr. of pulling a Colt .45 pistol out of his robes during the proceedings in March.

The alleged act came in the middle of a contentious legal dispute over gas drilling and mineral rights. Varnado said there had been bad blood from the start since she had questioned Hummel on whether he was not conflicted since a relative had sued EQT on a similar claim.

“He dismissed the jury and yelled at me for 45 minutes, including profanity and personal attacks,”

Lauren Varnado
West Virginia Judge Pulls Gun During Trial Aims at Attorney in the Courtroom
Attorney Lauren Varnado

During the trial, Varnado, who said she had been threatened at a local restaurant, had been escorted in and out of the courtroom with security, but she said Judge Hummel barred her security from the courtroom, saying, “I have bigger guns than they have.”

Varnado alleged that Hummel pointed the firearm,

“in a waving motion, like he was scanning, first at the defense counsel, and then (placed) it on the bench and slowly (turned) it to make sure the barrel of it is pointed at me.”

“In the moment in my head, I was thinking surely he’s not going to do anything,” Varnado said. “Surely it’s not loaded, but I do know it’s not proper gun safety to hold it that way, to point it at people, to leave a gun lying around.”

Judge Hummel’s office said the judge is prevented from making comments at this time, but EQT issued a statement supporting Varnado and chastising the judge’s alleged actions.

“A courtroom is meant to be a place of honor, respect and dignity. EQT is committed to prioritizing the safety of our employees and partners no matter where they work. We are thankful for the service of Ms. Varnado and her colleagues and relieved that they were not injured,”

Statement by EQT
West Virginia Judge Pulls Gun During Trial Aims at Attorney in the Courtroom

The parties in the case have settled out of court, but in addition to speaking with the FBI, Varnado said she’s cooperating with the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission, which she said has an ongoing investigation of the judge on unrelated matters.

“He cannot stay on the bench,” Varnado said.

The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission had no comment, and FBI Pittsburgh said it cannot confirm or deny the existence of investigations.

Because of the trial’s contentious nature, Varnado had a security detail, but Hummel wouldn’t allow them into the courtroom, saying,


“I have bigger guns than they have.”

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