Thursday, February 16, 2023
The Mississippi Supreme Court has suspended a judge for 60 days without pay
Judge Carlos E. Moore is a municipal court judge for the Mississippi cities of Grenada and Clarksdale. He also practices law with The Cochran Firm. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance filed a formal complaint against Judge Moore, alleging that he improperly summoned two local police officers to the municipal courtroom in Grenada and criticized them publicly concerning a discussion about a private client of Moore’s that had occurred several days earlier at Judge Moore’s private law office. The Commission and Judge Moore ask this Court to accept the stipulated findings of fact and to approve the recommended sanctions of a public reprimand and fine of $1,500. After careful consideration of the judicial misconduct at issue, we are unable to agree fully with the recommendation of the Commission. Because Judge Moore abused the power of his office to chastise and embarrass police officers in open court concerning a matter related to the judge’s private law practice, we order a 60-day suspension from judicial office without pay in addition to the recommended sanctions.
The client and the situation
a private client of Judge Moore’s was a victim of a shooting at the Satan’s Sidekick Clubhouse in Grenada in November 2020. On December 4, 2020, Detective Sergeant Chris Brown of the Grenada Police Department (along with a Mississippi Bureau of Investigation officer and a district attorney’s investigator) interviewed the client at Moore’s private law office. During the meeting, Moore learned that a search warrant had been issued for his client’s telephone records. A disagreement arose concerning the search warrant, with Moore telling the officers he would evaluate whether the warrant was valid before advising his client to comply with it. Moore terminated the interview and told the officers to leave his office. Detective Sergeant Brown said to Moore, “I’ve got your number,” which Moore interpreted as a threat. Moore called Brown’s superior, Police Chief George Douglas, to initiate a complaint; but when he was told that the complaint had to be in writing, he chose not to file one.
Four days later, the judge summoned the officer and admonished him in open court
According to the Commission’s complaint, Judge Moore accused Detective Sergeant Brown of threatening to cause bodily harm to Moore based on the remark he had made while leaving Moore’s law office. Additionally, the formal complaint alleged that Judge Moore labeled Detective Sergeant Brown a racist. The complaint said also that Moore had threatened to have Brown arrested if he ever visited one of Moore’s properties again.
Upon a thorough and independent review of the record, we find that a 60-day suspension from judicial office, without pay, is an appropriate sanction that reflects the gravity of this offense. Judge Moore inappropriately used a courtroom and the prestige and authority of his judicial office to make persons with whom he had a disagreement unrelated to his judgeship stand before the judicial bench and be criticized and embarrassed publicly by the presiding judge.
To make matters worse, this disagreement arose from an investigation of a criminal matter by a police department, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, and the district attorney in which at least one person had been shot. Clearly, Judge Moore was angry that a search warrant had been issued for his client’s telephone records. Moore acknowledged to the Commission that, “After some discussion and disagreement about the search warrant, [Moore] ended the interview and kicked all three law enforcement officers out of his office.” When he learned from the police chief that he could not lodge a complaint with the police department unless he put the complaint in writing, he embarked on another course of action.
The text of the reprimand is set forth in the opinion and will be administered in open court.
Judge Moore shall stand within the well of the court, before the bench, and the circuit judge shall read, aloud and in the hearing of all in attendance, the following public reprimand, in its entirety...