20 years ago this month . . . .
- The Louisiana Supreme Court publicly censured a judge who had (1) written a letter on personal judiciary stationery to a federal judge recommending leniency in the sentencing of a friend; (2) for 8 months after taking office, allowed his former law partner to use and/or share the court’s secretary/receptionist, telephone system, post office box, office supplies, and law library; (3) filed a candidate’s report that failed to list cash contributions of $2,300; and (4) hired a law clerk knowing that she was also working as an independent contractor for a private law firm and allowed her to do research for him in a case in which the firm had been counsel. In re Decuir, 654 So. 2d 549 (Louisiana 1995).
- The Louisiana Supreme Court removed a judge who had pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of failing to file a federal income tax return and had been sentenced to 12 months in prison, one year of probation, and a $5,000 fine. In re Huckaby, 656 So. 2d 292 (Louisiana 1995). Rejecting the Judiciary Commission’s argument, the Court stated that automatic removal of a judge sentenced to prison would surrender its constitutional duty for judicial discipline to the sentencing judge. However, the Court held that, in this case, the judge’s “baneful and odious” conduct justified removal. Three justices dissented from the removal.
- The Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured a judge who, during a dispute over a parking space at a mall, accelerated his car and struck a security officer who had waved another driver into the parking space. In re Bradfield, 532 N.E.2d 711 (Michigan 1995).
- The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct determined that admonition was the appropriate sanction for a judge who, during required pre-trial, ex parte conferences, repeatedly asked traffic defendants who pled not guilty by mail to restate their pleas and sometimes asked them to explain why they were pleading not guilty. In the Matter of Cavotta, Determination (May 3, 1995) (http://www.cjc.ny.gov/Determinations/all_decisions.htm). The Commission found that the defendants could have had little doubt that the judge wanted the matter concluded without a trial and that even if, as he contended, he did not intend to coerce pleas, the judge should have known that defendants charged with minor infractions with the likelihood of only small fines would often choose to plead guilty rather than go to the expense of hiring an attorney or the inconvenience of returning to court.
- The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for celebrating a fugitive’s apprehension in the courtroom with balloons, streamers, cake, and ice cream and inviting the media. Public Admonition of Johnson (April 29, 2005) (http://www.scjc.state.tx.us/pdf/actions/FY2005PUB-SANC.pdf).