Degrading stereotypes
A blog post in August 2022 summarized cases in which judges had been disciplined for comments to defendants about the possibility of violence in prison.  Since that post, there have been 2 sanctions for similar comments.

  • The Alabama Court of the Judiciary suspended a judge for 45 days without pay and publicly censured him for, in addition to other misconduct, referring to defendants being “somebody’s girlfriend” in the penitentiary and telling defendants that they would be “butt raped in the penitentiary.”  In the Matter of Patterson, Final judgment (Alabama Court of the Judiciary October 27, 2022).  The Court accepted an agreement in which the judge stipulated that the Judicial Inquiry Commission could prove the allegations in its complaint.
  • The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals suspended a judge for 12 months without pay (with 11 months held in abeyance), publicly reprimanded him, and ordered that he undergo counseling for, in addition to other misconduct, failing to treat litigants in 10 family court cases with respect and dignity, including telling a father in a child support case, “Or you’re going to prison forever!  I will send you down to live with the sodomites.”  In the Matter of Camilletti, Order (West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals September 20, 2022).  The Court accepted the recommendation of the Judicial Hearing Board, based on a joint stipulation and agreement in which the judge admitted the allegations in a formal statement of charges.

But see In re Burns, Opinion (Texas Special Court of Review December 2, 2022) (overturning sanction for a judge who told a defendant convicted in the murder of a little girl that he “should die in a locked closet just—if [the department of corrections] had one, but they don’t have one for you unfortunately”).

Judges and firearms
The spring 2022 issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter had an article on “Judges and firearms” with discussions of judicial discipline cases involving firearms in the courtroom, in the courthouse, and in personal disputes. Since that article was published, there have been several additional cases involving judges and firearms.

  • Adopting the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Discipline, which was based on a stipulation, the Colorado Supreme Court suspended a judge from office for 30 days without pay and publicly censured him for pointing an AR-15 style rifle at his adult stepson during a confrontation.  In the Matter of Thompson, 516 P.3d 28 (Colorado 2022).
  • The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct filed formal charges alleging that a judge had used extensive profanity and discharged a firearm in the vicinity of an individual who was subsequently convicted of stalking him and used profanity toward a process server who was serving him with a subpoena.  Subsequently, in a stipulated resolution, the judge agreed not to serve in any judicial capacity in the state after his term concluded on December 31, 2022, and the Commission agreed to conclude the proceeding.  Inquiry Concerning Watters, Final order (Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct September 7, 2022).
  • Based on the judge’s resignation and agreement not to seek judicial office in the state, the West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission publicly admonished a former judge for, in addition to other misconduct, during a hearing, removing a firearm from where it was concealed on his person, putting it on the bench in open view, and at one point, picking up and displaying the gun.  In the Matter of Hummel, Public admonishment (West Virginia Judicial Investigation Commission December 2, 2022).
  • In a notice of formal proceedings, the New Mexico Judicial Standards Commission alleged, inter alia, that a judge had placed a firearm on top of his desk in chambers one day, pointing at the door and clearly visible to employees walking by or entering his chambers, and told a court clerk that he was “going to kill” a public defender who appeared before him that day, or words to that effect.  Pursuant to a stipulation, the New Mexico Supreme Court ordered the permanent retirement of the judge.  In the Matter of Ionta, Order (New Mexico Supreme Court August 1, 2022).
  • A judge has appealed the determination of the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct removing him from office for, in addition to other misconduct, brandishing his loaded gun in the courtroom at a litigant who did not pose an imminent threat to him or anyone else, repeatedly mentioning the litigant’s race when recounting the incident, and boasting about the incident.  In the Matter of Putorti, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct September 9, 2022), on appeal.

Letters in adjudicative proceedings
The fall 2022 issue of the Judicial Conduct Reporter had an article on judges submitting character letters in adjudicative proceedings. Shortly after that article was published, accepting an agreed statement of facts and recommendation, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct publicly admonished a judge for voluntarily submitting character reference letters that invoked his judicial title in support of 2 pistol license applications and writing a letter on his judicial stationery requesting that another judge reconsider the denial of one of the applications.  In the Matter of Aronian, Determination (New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct November 7, 2022).

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