“A pattern of objectionable behavior”

The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of the Judiciary removing a judge from office for (1) engaging in a pattern of racist demeanor; (2) engaging in a pattern of sexually inappropriate demeanor; (3) expressing anger inappropriately and using profanity in the probate office; and (4) requesting that 2 attorneys who regularly practiced before him help a woman secure an early release from her sentence and using probate-court letterhead and his judicial title to seek financial help for a friend.  Jinks v. Judicial Inquiry Commission (Alabama Supreme Court October 21, 2022).  The Court of the Judiciary had held a hearing on the complaint filed by the Judicial Inquiry Commission.

Darrius Pearson, one of 2 African Americans employed in the probate office during the judge’s tenure, testified that he had heard the judge make inappropriate racial comments.  Pearson also testified that the judge stated to him, referring to a new vehicle that Pearson had recently purchased:  “I seen that car.  I can’t even—I’m the judge and I can’t even afford a Mercedes.  What you doing, selling drugs?”  The judge made the comment in the main area of the probate office, and it was overheard by other probate office employees.  In his answer, the judge admitted making this statement to Pearson, but denied that it was racist or contained racial innuendo.

Employees testified that in discussing the murder of George Floyd ,the judge had said, “he [didn’t] see why everybody was so upset about him getting killed,” and he “didn’t understand what the big deal was.  It was just one person.”  The judge was overheard in a telephone conversation discussing a meme depicting Black Lives Matter protests with the caption:  “Y’all got to quit burning s*** down because … you son[s]-of-b**ches is …going to need something to burn down after Trump gets re-elected for a second term.”  In his answer, the judge admitted making the comment and stated that, although he made it during a private and personal conversation, it should not have “been overheard in the workplace.” 

Probate office employees testified that, on multiple occasions, the judge referred to African Americans as “they,” “them,” or “those people.”  One employee testified that, after she had assisted an African-American couple with a marriage license, the judge asked her:  “What did their black a**es want?”  The probate office’s deputy chief clerk testified that, on one occasion, the judge mouthed the N-word to her.  An attorney testified that, when he was in the judge’s chambers before a hearing, the judge asked him if he knew what P-O-N-T-I-A-C stood for, a reference to a racist meaning that includes the N-word.  The attorney immediately stopped the judge and said:  “Whoa, I don’t think we need to go there.”  After the Commission filed its complaint, the judge appeared on a morning talk show on a local television station to address the allegations and admitted the exchange with the attorney, but stated that “if I share a racial slur with you that I’ve learned, that’s not using a racial slur.”

According to Pearson, he and the judge were working in the basement of the courthouse one day when the judge received a video on his cell phone.  The judge then stated to Pearson:  “[D]on’t tell nobody but look at this.”  Pearson momentarily looked at the video, which depicted women dancing with their breasts exposed.  Pearson testified that he refused to watch the rest of the video but that the judge sat down and continued to watch.  During his appearance on the talk show, the judge admitted that showing Pearson the video was a lapse in judgment but stated that “it was two guys” together.

One day when the judge discovered that a brown paper bag with a sandwich and produce he had previously placed in the office refrigerator was not there, he “exploded in a tirade, slamming the refrigerator door and exclaiming loudly:  ‘We have a damn thief in this office.  I can’t have s*** in this office.’”  The judge angrily “stormed off” and went to the office of the chief clerk, and proclaimed that they were going to have a staff meeting because someone had stolen his sandwich.  A few days after the incident, in a lengthy email to probate-office staff at 1:03 a.m., the judge again expressed his anger and resentment about the sandwich being “stolen.”

The Court emphasized that the Court on the Judiciary had heard the testimony and observed the witnesses, and “viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the [Judicial Investigation Commission] as we must,” it concluded that the decision was  supported by clear and convincing evidence.  The Court explained:

The record indicates that Judge Jinks made multiple racist and racially insensitive comments, engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct, engaged in inappropriate acts of anger and use of profanity, and, on several occasions, used the prestige of his office for the benefit of others.  Those acts were not isolated but occurred on a number of occasions while Judge Jinks was in the probate office acting in his capacity as the probate judge.  Those acts were numerous enough to establish a pattern of objectionable behavior on the part of Judge Jinks.

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