No secret

The recent “report not contested” the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission submitted to the Arkansas Supreme Court to resolve the discipline case against Judge MIchael Maggio has been much in the news, attracting attention because of the incongruity between the dignity of the office and the judge’s numerous vulgar, biased, and altogether inappropriate comments on a fan-site and the fact that some of the comments involved a famous actress.

The judge admitted that he was the author of the “geauxjudge” posts on the web-site, a Louisiana State University sports fan forum page.  The Commission found that the judge’s comments on the fan-site were not anonymous.

There were dozens, if not hundreds, of . . . posts identifying you as the poster through context and comments. Additionally, you made no secret that you were in fact a sitting judge and continually commented on your job and your role as a judge. Even your screen name indicated your official position.

There is some protection on [electronic social media] when you control the account. A person can shut down their own Facebook or Twitter account. They can also text individuals without broadcasting their comments to the world wide web without constraint. The site did not require a person to be a member to look at all of your comments. What you actually did was use a pseudonym and identify yourself through context while broadcasting to the public the comments that would ultimately bring you to discipline.

The volume of your comments result in much more than a problem of taste, decorum or personal opinion. It adds up to someone who demonstrates that he is unfit for the bench. Your actions offended and, even worse, gave rise to legitimate concerns that bias would overcome fairness and due process for a large number of potential litigants and their attorneys. Even the cases that you decided based purely on the facts and the law are now suspect by parties who look at the kind of statement you made. Whether it is race, gender, sexual orientation or specific subject matter, your comments made it impossible for you to be taken seriously as a judge who would be fair and impartial. You essentially disqualified yourself from the bench.

The Commission recommended that the judge (1) be removed from office for, on the site, (a) posting comments regarding the closed adoption of a famous actress and (b) making inappropriate statements about official duties, pending cases, and independent investigations, and (2) be suspended with pay until the end of his term for (a) inappropriate gender, race, and sexually related statements on the fan-site, (b) spoliation of evidence, and (c) improper handling of a hot check case in which he was the victim.  The removal will be effective at the end of his term on December 31, 2014; the Commission noted removal has a legal effect because it is permanent and prohibits him from holding judicial office in Arkansas.

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