Continuing through the end of the year, this blog will summarize the top judicial ethics and discipline stories of 2014. (The first week was “Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways”)
Inappropriate relationship between judges and litigants, attorneys, or court staff featured in many judicial discipline cases in 2014 (and not just those involving sex in chambers discussed in last week’s post).
• The Florida Supreme Court disbarred a former judge for a significant personal and emotional relationship with the lead prosecutor in a death penalty case that she failed to disclose in the case or during an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
• The Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline suspended a judge for three months without pay and censured him for maintaining a close social and personal relationship with a deputy district attorney while she actively litigated cases in his court and related misconduct.
• The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended a judge for 30 days without pay for (taking an all-expenses-paid trip on a private jet to a hunting ranch with an attorney in a case shortly after the case was concluded, in addition to other misconduct.
• The New Jersey Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for pursuing a personal relationship with the victim in a domestic violence matter pending before him after meeting her at a men’s club.
• The West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a former magistrate for exchanging sexually explicit Facebook messages with a woman who appeared before him in court.
• The Florida Supreme Court ordered a judge to appear before it to be reprimanded for an “inappropriate relationship” with her bailiff. The stipulation stated that the judge and the bailiff had a “friendship” that “went beyond the fraternization that normally occurs in a professional workplace context” and noted that judicial colleagues had approached the judge “with concerns over the level of friendship with someone over whom she exercised supervisory authority.”
Not all of the inappropriate relationships were social
• The New Jersey Supreme Court suspended a judge for one month without pay for creating a conflict of interest by soliciting an attorney for legal counsel in a personal matter while knowing he was counsel of record in two matrimonial matter over which she was presiding, failing to immediately recuse from those matters, and aiding or passively complying with the attorney’s concealment of the conflict.
Not all of the inappropriate relationships were congenial
• The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for an adversarial relationship with the director of the county community supervision and corrections department that improperly influenced his conduct and judgment and other misconduct.
• The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a former judge for, in addition to other misconduct, using his position and authority to bully, retaliate against, and punish attorneys four attorney for filing motions to recuse, grievances, criminal complaints, and removal actions against him and for their representation of his ex-wife or involvement in litigation involving his then-girlfriend.
• The North Dakota Supreme Court suspended a judge from office for one month without pay for persisting in his unsuccessful efforts to meet a court reporter in non-work settings that she reasonably interpreted as seeking much more than an “amicable working relationship.”
Not all of the inappropriate relationships were with individuals
• The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for serving on the board of directors of an organization to which her court refers litigants for services.