Recent cases

  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to rule for approximately 3 months on a contested order of protection and periodically filing certifications that he had no pending or undetermined cause for more than 60 days.  Guzman, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct November 17, 2020).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for (1) stating that he would “keep” a defendant who had not appeared for trial after issuing a warrant for his arrest; (2) keeping campaign materials in his judicial office and distributing nail files that stated “Bruce Staggs – Justice of the Peace, Benson JP Court” during court hours; (3) in a minute order, stating, “The Mormon’s [sic] the Court are [sic] associated with are good people that live up to their responsibilities;” (4) discussing a social medial post that criticized him in a minute order; (5) referring to female employees with the generic term of “woman” and telling a female employee “you’re unzipped,” in reference to the zippers on the ankle/calf of her pants and then commenting that he “wondered if he would get the same reaction if he were unzipped.”  Staggs, Order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct November 17, 2020).
  • Based on a stipulation and conditioned on the former judge’s agreement not to serve in a judicial capacity in the future, the California Commission on Judicial Performance severely admonished a former judge for his continuing failure to disclose his personal relationship with an attorney even after being publicly admonished for failing to do so in 2019; his lack of candor in 2 responses to the Commission; and his discourtesy to the district attorney in 1 case.  In the Matter Concerning Mason, Decision and order (California Commission on Judicial Performance December 9, 2020).
  • Agreeing with the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline based on a stipulation and agreement, the Colorado Supreme Court publicly censured a former judge based on his guilty plea to federal charges related to his disclosure of non-public, confidential information to his friends while serving as a magistrate and judge.  In the Matter of Kamada (Colorado Supreme Court December 7, 2020).
  • Based on his agreement not to seek judicial office in the future, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission disposed of a complaint that a judge had engaged in behavior towards employees that constituted harassment based on gender and/or sex.  In re Jordan, Report of disposition (Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission December 11, 2020).
  • Approving a statement of circumstances and conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court permanently barred a former magistrate from judicial service based on his guilty plea to possession of methamphetamine and resisting arrest; the Court also suspended the former magistrate from the practice of law for 1 year with the first 90 days served as an active suspension and the balance stayed subject to his successful completion of at least 2 years of probation.  In the Matter of Greenaway (Indiana Supreme Court December 4, 2020).
  • Affirming the decision of the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the removal of a judge for (1) coercing members of her guardian ad litem panel to donate the maximum amount to her campaign and to use personal time to campaign on her behalf; using court staff to work on her campaign during work hours; and taking steps to conceal HER conduct; (2) retaliating against an attorney for failing to campaign on her behalf by removing him from the guardian ad litem panel following the election;(3) forcing her case manager to resign to create a job opening for Stephen Penrose because she and Penrose were engaged in a personal, sexual relationship, not on the basis of merit; engaging in inappropriate workplace behavior with Penrose during work hours; and improperly delegating judicial functions to Penrose; (4) approving timesheets for staff members that she knew did not accurately reflect the hours those employees worked; leaving the courthouse on numerous occasions with staff members during regular court hours; permitting Penrose to play his guitar and sing in his office during work hours; and permitting staff member to store and consume alcoholic beverages in court offices; (5) directing school liaison officers to file school dependency, neglect, and abuse cases only once a month and to file certain petitions as truancy cases rather than dependency, neglect, and abuse cases, and, when one of those officers followed her employer’s instructions regarding how to file such cases, retaliating against her, referring to her as a “b***h,” and refusing to recuse from her cases; (6) making inappropriate sexual advances toward an attorney, sending one of her guardian ad litem panel attorneys to speak with the attorney, refusing to recuse from cases in which the attorney represented a party, and engaging in Snapchat conversations with members of her guardian ad litem panel and Penrose, some of which were sexual in nature; (7) appointing personal friends who supported her campaign to represent individuals seeking de facto custodian status without requiring those individuals to come to court to receive appointments; (8) failing to be candid and honest with the Commission regarding the termination of her case manager, the removal of the attorney from the guardian ad litem panel, and her relationship with Penrose; and (9) filing a bar complaint against an attorney in retaliation for her cooperation with the Commission investigation.  Gentry v. Judicial Conduct Commission (Kentucky Supreme Court December 17, 2020).
  • Affirming the Judicial Conduct Commission’s finding of fact, conclusions of law, and final order, the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the public reprimand of a former judge for intervening on behalf of her ex-husband after he was arrested and for sending an ex parte text to a Commission member just before her hearing.  Maze v. Judicial Conduct Commission (Kentucky Supreme Court December 17, 2020).
  • The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the Commission on Judicial Discipline’s admonishment of a hearing master for ignoring an attorney’s objections to her questioning of a juvenile defendant, yelling repeatedly at the attorney, preventing the attorney from making a record, threatening to report the attorney, and attempting to pressure the minor into answering her questions directly; the Commission had also ordered the hearing master to complete additional education.  In the Matter of Henry (Nevada Supreme Court December 23, 2020).
  • Accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for publicly supporting the teachers at her daughter’s school in litigation against the board of education by publicly commenting about issues and individuals involved in the litigation in person, by email, and on social media platforms in which she was publicly identified as a judge; providing legal information and advice to parents at the school; signing advocacy letters; speaking about the cases with members of the board of education; joining teacher union counsel outside the courtroom prior to a case conference; and executing an affidavit that was filed in the litigation.  In the Matter of Panepinto, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 9, 2020)
  • Adopting the findings of the Judicial Standards Commission, the North Carolina Supreme Court publicly censured a court of appeals judge for contributing to, enabling, and ignoring the toxic work environment in his chambers created by his executive assistant/law clerk, who was his close personal friend, and displaying a reckless disregard for the truth and downplaying the seriousness of his friend’s misconduct to the Commission and the administrative office of the courts.  In re Inquiry Concerning Murphy (North Carolina Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • Adopting the findings and recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, which were based on a stipulation of facts, the North Carolina Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge for knowingly proceeding with a defendant’s probable cause hearing without the defendant’s counsel present to “make a point” about the lawyer’s failure to appear in court at the time the judge had directed.  In re Inquiry Concerning Clontz (North Carolina Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • Adopting the findings of the Board of Professional Conduct, which were based on stipulations and evidence presented at a hearing, the Ohio Supreme Court suspended a former magistrate from the practice of law for 6 months for summarily holding a woman who screamed in the hallway outside his courtroom in contempt, and, when she protested, increasing her jail sentence to 10 days.  Disciplinary Counsel v. Bachman (Ohio Supreme Court December 18, 2020).
  • With the judge’s acceptance, the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct publicly reprimanded a judge for “conducting judicial business outside the parameters of the COVID-19” plan for his judicial district as approved by the Tennessee Supreme Court and commenting to a court audience that he “wished Chief Justice Jeff Bivens would win an award so that the COVID-19 mandates” would end.  Hinson (Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct December 15, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for allowing a PAC to use his name, title, and likeness in materials that supported the campaigns of other Democratic candidates for public office as well as his own.  Public Warning of Molberg (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 3, 2020), on appeal to special court of review.
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a former judge for (1) during a public meeting of the Travis County Commissioners Court, wearing a pink knitted beanie with cat ears referred to as a “pussy hat” and (2) during a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival, stating that Governor Abbott, who is paralyzed from the waist down, “hates trees because one fell on him.”  Public Admonition of Eckhard (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020), on appeal to special court of review.
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly warned a judge for publicly endorsing a candidate for county tax assessor-collector.  Public Warning of Cox (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for using the English and Spanish slurs for undocumented immigrants from Mexico in a conversation with his court reporter; the Commission also ordered the judge to obtain 2 hours of additional instruction with a mentor.  Public Admonition of Luitjen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • The Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for initiating and permitting ex parte communications with the district attorney’s office about the merits of a defendant’s motion for a new trial in a criminal case.  Public Admonition of Luitjen (Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 4, 2020).
  • Based on stipulated facts and conclusions of law, the Vermont Judicial Conduct Board publicly reprimanded a judge for leveraging his position as a part-time probate judge to gain an advantage for a client with a matter pending in his court’s criminal division and attempting to do so for a second client.  In re Cobb, Stipulated public reprimand with order (Vermont Judicial Conduct Board December 24, 2020).

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