Throwback Thursday

5 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for advertising wedding services on his web-site. Jayne, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct July 9, 2012).
  • Adopting the findings, conclusions, and recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Conduct, the Arizona Supreme Court removed a judge for asking the court manager to move his vehicle to avoid a process server attempting to serve him with an order of protection, continuing to hear cases involving such orders, invoking his position repeatedly with law enforcement authorities, and sending threatening texts to his wife. In the Matter of Woolbright, Order (Arizona Supreme Court July 23, 2012).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly censured a judge for seeking preferential treatment from a court commissioner for a traffic citation issued to his wife. Inquiry Concerning Sarmiento, Decision and Order (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 5, 2012).
  • The California Commission on Judicial Performance publicly admonished a judge for ordering an attorney to remain in the courtroom for over an hour and a half without adjudicating an alleged contempt and ordering the attorney to “spend every waking moment” working on the case until the preliminary hearing. Public Admonishment of Jacobson (California Commission on Judicial Performance July 11, 2012).
  • Approving the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Florida Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for driving under the influence and crashing the vehicle she was driving. Inquiry Concerning Nelson, 95 So. 3d 122 (Florida 2012).
  • The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, with the consent of the judge, made public the fact that it had privately reprimanded a judge but not the content of the reprimand; the report states that the matter originated with media reports that the judge had been arrested based on allegations he engaged in a physical altercation with his wife; subsequently, the judge and the prosecutor agreed that the charges would be dismissed based upon his pre-trial diversion agreement to attend marital and stress counseling. In re Weaver, Report of Disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission July 18, 2012).
  • With the judge’s consent, in lieu of filing formal disciplinary proceedings, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications publicly admonished a judge for granting an ex parte motion for custody filed by a child’s maternal grandparents without notice to the non-custodial father or an opportunity for him to be heard. Public Admonition of Johnston (Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications July 5, 2012).
  • The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the Judicial Conduct Commission’s removal of a judge for (1) advocating at a county meeting that $500,000 donated by criminal defendants under a plea agreement be used to fund a water park; (2) making misstatements in an order; (3) establishing a special grand jury to discredit the judge-executive; (4) viewing videotapes regarding the sheriff’s investigation of the judge-executive; (5) presiding over 2 criminal cases that he had urged the state police to investigate and the commonwealth’s attorney to pursue; (6) urging the utility company to donate $12,500 for playground equipment at his children’s elementary school and raising funds for the equipment; and (8) removing an assistant public defender as counsel in cases without giving her an opportunity to be heard. Alred v. Judicial Conduct Commission, 395 S.W.3d 417 (Kentucky 2012).
  • Affirming the recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission, the Michigan Supreme Court removed a judge from office for (1) inappropriate financial transactions and practices, including misappropriating public funds; (2) failing to ensure that a business-attire policy was properly enforced and did not deny people access to the court; (3) knowingly rehiring an unqualified magistrate, misrepresenting that he was qualified, and requiring him to sign bench warrants, contrary to statute; (4) hiring her niece; and (5) making misrepresentations during the investigation and hearing, including lying under oath. In re James, 821 N.W.2d 144 (Michigan 2012).
  • Based on a stipulation of facts and consent, the Oregon Supreme Court publicly censured a judge for a 16-month delay in issuing a decision in a divorce case. Inquiry Concerning Avera, 283 P.3d 923 (Oregon 2012).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline removed a former judge and barred him from serving in judicial office based on his guilty plea to charges that he had taken sexual liberties with 2 women appearing in his courtroom. In re Cioppa, 51 A.3d 923 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2012).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline suspended a judge for 1 month without pay for failing to docket a citation received by her son and instructing her office manager not to docket it until the judge told her to do so; transferring the citation to another judge’s court in violation of county administrative rules that require a transfer order from the president judge; making false statements in a report to the president judge; and instructing her court manager to testify falsely at a deposition. In re Arnold, 51 A.3d 931 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 2012).
  • Pursuant to the judge’s agreement, the Tennessee Court of the Judiciary publicly reprimanded a judge for denying a motion to recuse in an order that recited facts that he should not have considered and accused the moving attorneys of misconduct. Re Gasaway (Tennessee Court of the Judiciary July 2, 2012).
  • Following a trial de novo, a Special Court of Review Appointed by the Texas Supreme Court publicly admonished a judge to use only names and titles when referring to individuals appearing in his courtroom and to refrain from referring to individuals’ appearance or parts of their body unless the reference was appropriate and necessary under the circumstances. In re Adams, Decision (Special Court of Review Appointed by the Texas Supreme Court July 3, 2012).

What they said that got them in trouble in the first half of 2017

  • “If you speak I’m going to put you in handcuffs and put you in jail.” Judge to assistant district attorney who had asked to speak when the judge indicated he was going to dismiss charges in a high profile murder case after a mistrial.  In the Matter of Piampiano, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017) (censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “Give this to Judge Hawthorne and have him dismiss it for me.”  Judge to court clerk about traffic ticket received by an acquaintance.  In the Matter of Aluzzi, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 26, 2017) (censure).
  • “Un-cuff Zohra . . . . I think she’s learned a lesson.”  Judge who had ordered his bailiff to handcuff a deputy public defender to a chair when she continued to argue for leniency as he sentenced her client.  In the Matter of Hafen, Stipulation and order of consent (Nevada Commission on Judicial Discipline February 27, 2017) (censure).
  • “I’m not appointing them right now, I’m waiting 60 days to – so the public defender cannot disqualify me.” Judge to clerk while giving back form for appointment of counsel for a defendant during dispute with public defender.  In re Mennemeyer, 505 S.W.3d 282 (Missouri 2017) (6-month suspension without pay for this and other misconduct).
  • “IT IS ORDERED AND DIRECTED THAT: Until further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court, the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court that Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to the Alabama Sanctity of Marriage Amendment or the Alabama Marriage Protection Act remain in full force and effect.”  Chief Justice in administrative order disregarding federal court injunction.  Moore v Judicial Inquiry Commission (Alabama Supreme Court April 19, 2017) (suspension until end of term).
  • “We have at least one magistrate who will do same-sex marriages, but I will not be able to.” Judge to reporter.  Inquiry Concerning Neely, 390 P.3d 728 (Wyoming 2017) (censure).
  • “I’m not sure, Cody, that I can recall, in recent times, somebody being that sympathetic a figure.” Judge to reporter about the defendant in 1 of 3 media interviews he gave shortly after declaring a mistrial in a high profile murder case.  In the Matter of Piampiano, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 13, 2017) (censure for this and other misconduct).
  • “Time for a tree and a rope . . .” Judge in comment on the sheriff’s Facebook post about the arrest of an African-American man for the killing of a police officer.  Amended Public Reprimand of Oakley and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 8, 2017).
  • “Colored.” Judge referring to black people but, he stated, “never in the courtroom or directed at one particular individual.”  Public Reprimand of DeLaPaz and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 17, 2017).
  • “Ok, I’m not gonna argue with you.  I will throw you out of this office, though.”  Judge before escorting out of his office a member of the public who had asked to see the case files on a particular defendant.  Public Warning of Alford and Order of Additional Education (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct March 28, 2017).
  • “Barack Obama & Gary Johnson Party at the White House . . . .” False and misleading caption to photo-shopped picture in a campaign flyer attacking an incumbent judge.   In the Matter of Callaghan, 796 S.E.2d 604 (West Virginia 2017) (2-year suspension without pay and $15,000 fine).
  • “’Ms. Shepard has done well. She has kept her promises.  She has worked hard.  She has maintained her integrity.’ – The Orlando Sentinel.”  Judicial candidate’s mailer using an edited version of a newspaper endorsement for her 1994 legislative re-election campaign in her 2014 judicial campaign.  Inquiry Concerning Shepard, 217 So. 3d 71 (Florida 2017) (90-day suspension without pay).
  • “Karen Shatzle [sic] has sex with defense lawyer whike [sic] shw [sic] is a DA on his cases and nobody cares. Interesting politics.”  Judge about a judicial candidate on the bar association Facebook page with knowing or reckless disregard to the truth of the statement.   In the Matter Concerning Ferguson, Public admonishment (California Commission on Judicial Performance May 31, 2017) (public admonishment for this and other misconduct).

 

 

Throwback Thursday

10 years ago this month:

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge who became irritable and impatient with an attorney and, when the attorney tried to make a record, said, “I don’t care for the record, Mr. Jones. You say one more word and you’re in contempt.”  Andress, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct July 11, 2007).
  • With the judge’s agreement, the D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure determined that a judge made comments about cultural issues prior to sentencing in a sexual abuse case that created an appearance of bias and compromised the integrity of the judicial process. Re Mitchell-Rankin, Determination and Undertaking (D.C. Commission on Judicial Disabilities and Tenure July 9, 2007).
  • Adopting the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct to which the justice did not object, the New Jersey Supreme Court publicly censured a supreme court justice for communications with the police, prosecutors, and judges that created an unacceptable risk that his judicial office could influence the handling of a matter relating to his son. In the Matter of Rivera-Soto, 927 A.2d 112 (New Jersey 2007).
  • Granting a petition filed by the Commission on Judicial Standards based on stipulated findings of fact, the New Mexico Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for endorsing a mayor for re-election and authorizing the use of his name in an endorsement that was published in the local newspaper. Inquiry Concerning Vincent, 172 P.3d 605 (New Mexico 2007).
  • Upholding the determination of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the New York Court of Appeals removed a judge for (1) dismissing several code violation cases based on ex parte communications without providing the prosecution with notice or an opportunity to be heard and (2) testifying falsely about her actions and altering her court calendar to support her false testimony. In the Matter of Marshall, 872 N.E.2d 247 (New York July 2007).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge who failed for over 6 years to adequately supervise his court clerks and to discharge his administrative duties diligently, resulting in missing court monies. In the Matter of Cavotta, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 19, 2007).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and joint recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a non-lawyer judge whose handling of 3 small claims matters was fraught with errors and violated well-established statutory and ethical mandates. In the Matter of Edwards, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 19, 2007).
  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removed a non-lawyer judge who, in a property dispute involving a relative, had abused his judicial authority, presided over the matter notwithstanding his bias against the defendants, used his judicial power to benefit his relative’s interests, and used the term “jewing” while berating the defendants. In the Matter of Ellis, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 24, 2007).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for (1) finding a defendant guilty in absentia; (2) in a second case, failing to provide adequate notice or an opportunity to respond before finding a defendant in contempt and issuing orders and fines that he had no authority to enforce; and (3) issuing a subpoena to compel another judge to appear before him. Public Admonition of Wall (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 13, 2007).
  • Accepting an agreement for discipline by consent, the South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge following his guilty plea to common law misconduct in office. In the Matter of Stephens, 650 S.E.2d 849 (South Carolina 2007).

 

Top judicial ethics stories of 2017 – So far

  • In early 2017, several judicial ethics advisory committees answered inquiries from judges about whether they could participate in marches, contact their elected representatives, or engage in similar political activities as private citizens or respond as judges to other public officials’ misconceptions about the rule of law. Click here for a previous post about the opinions.
  • A special Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of the Judiciary suspending Chief Justice Roy Moore from office without pay for the remainder of his term for entering an administrative order that directed all probate judges to follow Alabama’s marriage laws in disregard of a federal court injunction. Click here for a previous post about the case.  Shortly after the decision, the Chief Justice resigned to run for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became Attorney General of the U.S.
  • Following a de novo review, the Wyoming Supreme Court censured Judge Ruth Neely for her refusal to perform same-sex marriages and ordered that she either perform no marriage ceremonies or that she perform marriage ceremonies regardless of the couple’s sexual orientation. Inquiry Concerning Neely, 390 P.3d 728 (Wyoming 2017).  Click here for a previous post about the case.

Top stories still developing:

  • On June 16, the Oregon Supreme Court held oral arguments on the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability that Judge Vance Day be removed from office for a variety of misconduct. The Commission found that the judge had committed misconduct by (1) after the state’s ban on same-sex marriage was overturned, directing his staff to lie about his availability to same-sex couples asking to be married and direct them to another judge; (2) at 2 community college soccer games for his son’s team, trying to intimidate a referee by, for example, brandishing his judicial business card while threatening to complain to the referee’s employer about his job performance; (3) facilitating the handling of a firearm by a former Navy SEAL and convicted felon (identified as “BAS”) on active supervised probation in the veterans court over which the judge presided; (4) “enamored with BAS’s notoriety and his accomplishments in the military,” having unsolicited, often unwanted, personal, and completely inappropriate out-of-court contacts with him, including texting him, showing up at BAS’s home uninvited, taking him to a wedding, bringing BAS to his home, nurturing a relationship between BAS and his son, and facilitating favors for BAS such as rides and food; (5) securing funds for a “Hall of Heroes” (military art hung in his courtroom and in the surrounding public areas, including a donated portrait of Hitler) in part by soliciting financial support from attorneys who appeared before him and collecting the money, often in the courthouse and once during a status conference in his chambers; (6) making public statements to create the impression that the Commission proceeding was solely about his religious beliefs and refusal to conduct same-sex marriages to deflect attention away from his other misconduct; and (7) engaging in a pattern of dishonesty and untruthfulness during the Commission proceedings.
  • In May, the ACLU of Kentucky, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign, and a law professor filed a complaint with the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission against Judge Mitchell Nance after he announced he would no longer hear adoption cases involving “homosexual parties” because he “as a matter of conscience” believes that “under no circumstance” would “the best interest of the child be promoted by the adoption by a practicing homosexual”
  • On April 17, in an exercise of its general superintending control and to protect the integrity of the judicial system and “ensure that all are given a fair and impartial tribunal,” the Arkansas Supreme Court re-assigned all cases involving the death penalty or the state’s execution protocol, whether civil or criminal, that had been assigned to Judge Wendell Griffen and referred Judge Griffen to the Commission on Judicial Discipline & Disability.  Judge Griffen has also filed a complaint about the order against the justices with the Commission.  The Court’s order was prompted by Judge Griffen’s participation in 2 protests against the death penalty on Good Friday April 14 (he is also a pastor) and his entry of a temporary injunction that same day in a suit brought by a drug distributor against the use of its paralytic drug in 8 executions the state had scheduled in 10 days beginning Monday April 17 because its supply of the drug, which was one of the drugs used in executions, was about to expire.

Throwback Thursday

20 years ago this month:

  • The New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge who had routinely required out-of-town defendants in traffic cases to post $100 bail if they pled guilty by mail. In the Matter of Kelson, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 17, 1997).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge who had told a litigant “it appears to me that you are more than a little nuts” and, when the litigant objected, said, “I understand what I have heard with my own ears and it appears to me that you are nuts.” In the Matter of Going, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct July 18, 1997).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline severely reprimanded and censured a former judge for sexually harassing a court employee and filing false and misleading campaign expense reports. In re Cicchetti, 698 A.2d 704 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 1997).
  • The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline suspended a judge for 60 days without pay for contacting the supervisor of the statutory appeal unit regarding a defendant who had appealed from a sentence the judge had imposed and for making false statements to FBI agents about the contact. In re Trkula, 698 A.2d 180 (Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline 1997).
  • Based on an agreement, the South Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge who had pled guilty to official misconduct in office for dismissing DUI charges against a friend; the Court also ordered that he not seek appointment to any judicial office in the state unless authorized by the Court. In the Matter of Chiles, 490 S.E.2d 259 (South Carolina 1997).
  • Agreeing with the recommendation of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Utah Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for allowing a litigant to submit a sworn affidavit signed by the judge that gave the judge’s opinions and conclusions on the ultimate issue in a pending judicial proceeding. In re McCully, 942 P.2d 327 (Utah 1997).
  • The Vermont Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge and suspended her for 1 year without pay for falsely denying, during a hearing by the Vermont Association of County Judges, that she had secretly taped meetings or conversations. In re Kroger, 702 A.2d 64 (Vermont 1997).
  • Adopting the recommendations of the Judicial Hearing Board, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals publicly admonished a magistrate for contacting the arresting officer and prosecuting attorney concerning an action against his son-in-law. In the Matter of Rice, 489 S.E.2d 783 (West Virginia 1997).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the Wisconsin Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge for battering his wife and causing her bodily harm. In the Matter of Crivello, 564 N.W.2d 785 (Wisconsin 1997).

 

Recent cases

  • With the judge’s consent, in lieu of filing formal disciplinary proceedings, the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission admonished a judge for participating in an ex parte hearing at which the clerk of court was banned from the courthouse without providing the clerk with notice of the purpose of the hearing or the opportunity to obtain counsel. Public Admonition of Barry (Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission June 28, 2017).
  • The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ordered that a former probate judge forfeit $5,000 and be suspended from the practice of law in Maine for 2 years for (1) directing that 7 attorneys not be included on the appointments list; (2) removing an attorney from cases to which she had previously been appointed; (3) ordering the destruction of a lawfully obtained public document; (4) issuing orders urging litigants before him to lobby for increased court time; and (5) personally soliciting campaign contributions. In the Matter of Nadeu (Maine Supreme Judicial Court June 20, 2017).
  • Based on a settlement agreement and stipulated findings of fact and conclusions of law, the Michigan Supreme Court suspended a judge for 6 months without pay and publicly censured him for sexually harassing his judicial secretary. In re Iddings (Michigan Supreme Court July 6, 2017).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished a judge for (1) invoking her judicial title and position in a letter she wrote on behalf of her childhood babysitter to be filed in connection with a motion to vacate her conviction and (2) writing 2 affirmations on behalf of her son to be filed in the appellate division in connection with his criminal case. In the Matter of Ramirez, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct May 4, 2017).
  • Based on the report of a referee following a hearing, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct censured a non-lawyer judge for seeking special consideration from court officials in connection with an acquaintance’s traffic ticket. In the Matter of Aluzzi, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct June 26, 2017).

 

 

Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • The Delaware Court on the Judiciary censured and removed from office a judge who, without first resigning, sought the endorsement of his party convention for the nomination for Governor of Delaware. In the Matter of Buckson, 610 A.2d 203 (Delaware 1992).
  • Approving a conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded and admonished a former judge for pulling down his pants and revealing his undergarments and portions of his bare buttocks in his office in the presence of a female clerk employee, a police officer, and an employee of the court, without invitation or forewarning; the Court also prohibited the former judge from serving as a judge for 8 years. In the Matter of Katic, 595 N.E.2d 259 (Indiana 1992).
  • The Nebraska Supreme Court removed from office a judge who (1) regularly conducted disposition hearings without providing for a verbatim record, contrary to previous opinions and to discourage appellate review; (2) improperly ordered parties in a case out of the courtroom, prevented the attorney from the department of social services from making a record and excluded her from meetings, and received information out of court that affected his decision; and (3) ordered law enforcement officers to take 2 juveniles into custody and place them in the custody of the county administrator to prompt the county board of commissioners to provide a county juvenile detention facility and in retaliation for a dispute over parking spaces. In re Staley, 486 N.W.2d 886 (Nebraska 1992).
  • Based on an agreed statement of facts and memoranda as to sanction, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct admonished a judge who, in court and to a newspaper reporter, made comments about the celebration of Christmas by the mother in a custody proceeding in which the litigants and their children were Jewish. In the Matter of Feiden, Determination (New York Commission on Judicial Conduct July 29, 1992).