Throwback Thursday

25 years ago this month:

  • Approving a conditional agreement for discipline, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended a judge without pay for 7 days for meeting ex parte with a defendant in a case pending before him and failing to disqualify himself from a case in which that defendant was a key witness.  In the Matter of Sanders, 674 N.E.2d 165 (Indiana 1996).
  • The Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct disclosed its private reprimand of a judge for, during an informal, off-the-record conference with lawyers in a criminal case, in response to a defense attorney’s claim that statements about the 7 Cambodian defendants made by the assistant attorney general were racist, responding “I don’t think that’s racist at all.  We ought to send them right back to the Killing Fields.”  The judge also apologized and agreed to participate in an educational program and to meet regularly with a mentor judge.  In re Mori, Agreed Disposition (Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct December 26, 1996). 
  • The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards publicly reprimanded a judge for failing to conclude a dissolution matter within 90 days as directed by administrative policy and statute.  Press Release (Seibel) (Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards December 23, 1996).
  • The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards publicly reprimanded a judge for writing a letter published in a local newspaper addressing community reaction to the arrest of 5 Native Americans charged with a murder and speaking out against the dynamics that feed racism.  Press Release (Wolf) (Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards December 1996).
  • Concurring with a joint resolution and affirming the findings of fact and the agreed sanctions, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former judge for incarcerating a defendant without notice or hearing, sentencing a second defendant to more jail time than allowed by law, and finding the same defendant guilty of perjury based on his own affidavit and warrant even though perjury is a felony and beyond the jurisdiction of his court.  Commission on Judicial Performance v. Fletcher, 686 So. 2d 1075 (Mississippi 1996).
  • Granting the joint motion for approval of a recommendation, the Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a judge and fined him $2,628 for irregularities in the disposition of traffic-related offenses, including reducing 3 DUIs in violation of a statute, assessing costs or fines in excess of the statutory maximum in 6 cases, failing to require affidavits in 4 cases, issuing orders without authority, and allowing cameras in the courtroom.  Commission on Judicial Performance v. Emmanuel, 688 So. 2d 222 (Mississippi 1996).
  • Pursuant to a stipulation, the Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly censured a judge for (1) acting on an ex parte communication, quashing a warrant lawfully issued by another judge; (2) in a second case, unilaterally assuming jurisdiction over a dissolution of marriage action, ex parte, at the request of the husband based on a personal relationship even though the judge knew that a dissolution action was pending in Arizona and that the minor child of the parties was residing with the mother in Arizona; improperly issuing an arrest warrant and writ of extradition for the mother and advising the father about the proper method to seek enforcement of the writ in Arizona; and refusing to consult with the judge in Arizona regarding the case pending in Arizona and refusing to respond to the Arizona judge’s efforts to do so; (3) in a third case, discussing the specifics of a plea bargain in an ex parte communication with the prosecutor; (4) conduct that repeatedly gave the appearance of having had ex parte contacts with both parties and counsel outside of the court, off the record, and to the exclusion of opposing parties and counsel where issues in controversy were discussed and matters of substance appeared to be decided without notice to opposing counsel; (5) demeanor that on multiple occasions gave the impression to both parties and attorneys that he was failing to be attentive to the matters pending before him; (6) a level of competency below that demanded of a superior court judge in civil matters involving, but not limited to general jurisdiction, evidence, domestic relations, and ethics; (7) failing to avail himself of educational assistance programs for judges that relate to duties and responsibilities; and (8) giving the appearance that he was swayed by personal affiliations and relationships with members of organizations to which he belonged.  The judge also agreed to successfully complete courses at the National Judicial College; to attend not less than 15 hours of CLE a year for 2 years; to meet with a judicial mentor; and to disclose to opposing parties and counsel any personal relationship, excluding those involving merely name and facial familiarity, based upon the judge’s common membership in a club or congregation with a party or attorney.  In re Jorgensen, Stipulation (Washington State Commission on Judicial Conduct December 6, 1996). 

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