Way To Go! By TOM CAMPBELL TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER A judge who made a woman pull down her pants in court and decided a child-visitation dispute with a coin toss was removed from the bench yesterday. The Virginia Supreme Court, acting on a complaint forwarded from the state Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, ordered the removal of Judge James Michael Shull of the Wise County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. In an opinion written by Justice Barbara Milano Keenan, the court said that Shull's misconduct shows "his disregard for the dignity of litigants appearing before him and for the dignity of the judicial process." According to the court, Shull had the woman pull down her pants in a December 2006 custody hearing to show a wound on her thigh that she said her estranged husband had inflicted. Shull told the woman he would not extend a protective order against him unless he saw the wound. The court said Shull twice told the woman to lower her pants. The second time, witnesses said, the judge left the bench and sat in the witness chair about an arm's length away from her. Shull, at a commission hearing in April, said he knew the woman had a history of mental illness and had engaged in self-mutilation. A courtroom bailiff testified at the commission hearing that, outside the courtroom after the hearing, he asked Shull if he had seen "what that lady had on?" "Yeah," Shull allegedly replied, "a black, lacy thong. . . . It looked good, didn't it?" Shull denied that exchange took place. The court found that during a recess in the same custody hearing, Shull made a telephone call seeking information from the hospital where the woman's wound had been treated. Under judicial procedure, both parties in the case should have taken part in such a call. Shull admitted that he had decided a visitation dispute by tossing a coin. But he said he meant to encourage the litigants to settle it themselves by showing them that his decision would be as random as a coin toss. With the coin-tossing, Shull "denigrated both the litigants and our justice system," the court said. "A judge's act of tossing a coin in a courtroom to decide a legal issue pending before the court suggests that courts do not decide cases on their merits but instead subject litigants to games of chance in serious matters without regard to the evidence or applicable law," the court said. "By directing [the woman] to lower her pants twice in the courtroom, Judge Shull ignored the dignity of a litigant who was not represented by counsel and who had a clear history of mental instability." Such actions by a judge "impair public confidence in the integrity of our justice system," the court said. Shull is only the second judge removed from the bench since the commission was created in 1971 to investigate complaints of judicial misconduct. The first was a Richmond judge, Harold Cobb Maurice, who sat for 34 years on what is now the General District Court. It was called simply Police Court for most of his tenure. Maurice retired in 1977 by agreement with federal prosecutors who were investigating the alleged illegal sale of guns, liquor and beer that had been confiscated by police. Months later, the Supreme Court found that Maurice had misappropriated certain confiscated items, including alcohol, and that he consumed confiscated beer with others in his office. He also allowed a friend who was a bail bondsman, Herman "Cocky" Rosenstein, to take guns from the court's evidence rooms. The Supreme Court stripped Maurice of his title and retirement benefits. He died in 1986.