Monday, March 10, 2008
The North Carolina Supreme Court ordered a censure and sixty-day suspension of a judge who was a practicing lawyer prior to his election as a district court judge. He leased the building where he had had his law office and sold his files to another attorney. The attorney appeared before him on multiple occasions and he did not disclose the relationship. After complaints from the district attorney's staff of favorable treatment of the lawyer, he sought the identity of the complainants and said he would "unload on them." He also was "habitually rude and condescending to those who appeared before him in court." Also troubling was the judge's attempt to avoid disqualification:
"...our attention is particularly drawn to respondent's testimony under oath regarding his attempts to procure a remittal of disqualification with respect to attorney Dummit[the tenant]. The Commission found that respondent directed Dummit to prepare a remittal of disqualification "disclosing the landlord-tenant relationship existing between respondent and Mr. Dummit and deeming it 'insubstantial and immaterial pursuant to the opinion rendered by the Judicial Standards Commission.'” The Commission found that no such opinion had been rendered by the Commission or its Executive Secretary, Mr. Ross.
In addition, although respondent testified under oath that he did not direct Dummit to prepare the remittal, plenary evidence contradicted him. Respondent's own testimony indicated that he communicated with Paul Ross of the Commission regardingthe remittal and yet it was Dummit who drafted the document. We also note that Tom Langan testified that he was present when respondent told an associate from Dummit's law firm to have Dummit draft the remittal." (Mike Frisch)