Friday, October 2, 2009
The Mississippi Supreme Court imposed a public reprimand and 30 day suspension of a justice court judge based on complaints of inappropriate actions in his official capacity. The judge admitted having ex parte contacts with a litigant and then ruling in that litigant's favor, continuing a case where no one either appeared or moved for a continuance, attempting toget two traffic tickets dismissed that were assigned to another judge, improperly dismissing cases and ordering contempt warrants against individuals where there were no pending charges. The court majority found the agreed sanction to be "reasonable and supported by boththe record and our precedent."
The dissenters felt that the sanctions were "woefully inadequate and nearly naught to the offenses, as opposed to 'ought to fit the offense.' " The ex parte contact led "one litigant [to go] home falsely believing that the court was considering the merits (or lack thereof) of her case, foolishly assuming that the decision would be based on the evidence adduced at trial." Other conduct amounted to ticket-fixing.
The court majority had adopted the proposed sanction of the Commission on Judicial Performance. The dissent states: "This Court has clearly signaled to the Commission that it is time for the sun to set on the 'good ole boys' days, as this Court increasingly has shown its disdain for judicial misconduct and has enhanced sanctions beyond those recommended by the Commission...considering the quantity, character and consequences of [the judge's] misconduct, a more severe sanction is warranted." (Mike Frisch)