Gavel Grab

Archive for the 'Judicial misconduct' Category

Judge Suspended For Accepting Free Trip From Lawyer

A Louisiana judge who accepted a free trip from an attorney acted in ways that “harmed the integrity of and respect for the judiciary,” the Louisiana Supreme Court said.

District Judge Robin Free was suspended for 30 days without pay, according to The Advocate. The judge accepted the three-day trip to a Texas hunting ranch  “from a Texas attorney whose client was awarded a $1.2 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit tried in the judge’s court,” the newspaper said.

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Judges Behaving Badly Are Disciplined in Michigan

A spate of high profile scandals involving sitting elected judges has resulted in cracking down by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. A Detroit Free Press article examines the misconduct and invites readers to reach their own conclusions.

“I think you can make the point that this is a troubled judiciary,” said Charles Gardner Geyh, a professor of law at Indiana University. “But there is a counterpoint to be made. Michigan is doing a fairly aggressive job of rooting out misconduct.”

The article recounts a rather sensational side to the scandals:

“They lied, stole, forged bank documents, padded expense accounts, drove drunk, slept with litigants and jailed innocent people. Michigan judges have been in big trouble in recent years. The number of judges disciplined — about 35 per year — has not gone up, but the level of chicanery has soared.”

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Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Drops Appeal


Former Justice Joan Orie Melvin

Former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has dropped her appeal and has begun serving her sentence, according to an article by the Associated Press. Her sentence on public corruption charges includes sending apology letters to other state judges and three years of house arrest. (For more background see Gavel Grab.)

Melvin has submitted drafted apology letters, but has been met with contention by District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. “[A]ttempting to deflect blame for her actions to members of her staff can hardly be considered an apology,” Zappala said. His concerns deal with a specific paragraph in Melvin’s draft that reads, “In reflection, I wish I had been more diligent in my supervision of my staff and that I had given them more careful instructions with respect to the prohibition on political activity.” Zappala has forwarded his comments to the sentencing judge, but no response has been received.

Melvin was convicted of using her judicial staffers, who are paid with taxpayer money, for her own state Supreme Court campaigns. This scandal involving the court has been quickly followed by another which resulted in the resignation of Justice Seamus McCaffery, leading some to question the process of electing judges.

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Tennessee Trial Judge is Reprimanded

Tennessee’s Board of Judicial Conduct has reprimanded a trial court judge whose handling of an assault case, in which a friend who was also a campaign donor represented the defendant, sparked controversy.

The board said Davidson County Judge Casey Moreland had violated three judicial canons and “detrimentally affected the integrity of the Judiciary,” according to The Tennessean.

Judge Moreland decided in the case at issue to provide early release for a defendant whose attorney, Bryan Lewis, was good friends with the judge and had donated to his campaign. The defendant allegedly attacked his victim a second time soon after release (see Gavel Grab).

The judge has apologized. In the wake of the controversy, reforms were adopted.

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Pennsylvania Justice McCaffery is Suspended From Bench

Justice McCaffery

Justice McCaffery

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday suspended with pay one of its justices, Seamus McCaffery. The vote followed his apology for sending sexually explicit e-mails, which he had described as private and personal.

Pennsylvania’s Judicial Conduct Board, which has begun an investigation, was ordered by the court to decide in 30 days if there is probable cause for bringing formal misconduct charges, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer article. Read more

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Conflict at Divided Pennsylvania Supreme Court

Allegations of wrongdoing are threatening to cast a cloud over the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. One justice, Seamus McCaffery, “acknowledged sending sexually explicit messages from a personal account,” the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, and a divided court is weighing action.

There’s more to the messy and still-unfolding story. Justice McCaffery has labeled a push for his suspension by Chief Justice Ronald Castille as part of a “vindictive pattern attacks” on McCaffery, according to the Inquirer.

And Justice J. Michael Eakin, the Inquirer said, “was shown to have been sent pornographic and racially tinged e-mails on an anonymous private account”; the article said Justice Eakin “reported himself to the Judicial Conduct Board.” He “accused McCaffery of threatening to release the sexually explicit emails in Read more

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Ex-Justice Receives Another Stay of Her Sentence

courtheaderFormer Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin has received another stay of her sentence, her third in 18 months, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Convicted of public corruption in her own state Supreme Court campaign, Orie Melvin was sentenced to three years of house arrest, a $55,000 fine, soup kitchen volunteer hours, and ordered to write letters of apology to every judge in the commonwealth. Read more

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Judge Removed From Bench After Ordering Electro-Shock

The Maryland Court of Appeals has removed Charles County Circuit Court Judge Robert C. Nalley from the bench. Maryland State Public Defender Paul DeWolfe earlier requested Judge Nalley’s removal, after the judge “ordered a defendant in his courtroom to be electro-shocked to shut him up,” according to Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy.

According to the Baltimore Sun, “Maryland has a mandatory retirement age for judges, but the Court of Appeals can give them permission to keep hearing cases.” Judge Nalley had officially retired earlier. Read more

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Domestic-Assault Case Involving Judge Gets More Scrutiny

With football star Ray Rice making new headlines after video of his beating his fiancee was made public, some analysts are finding parallels with the case of a federal district judge recently charged with assaulting his wife.

Judge Fuller

Judge Fuller

Both Rice and Judge Mark Fuller of Alabama may see their records expunged after they have participated in pre-trial diversion programs that include counseling (see Gavel Grab for background about Judge Fuller). The NFL initially suspended Rice for two games, and after the video became public, his contract was terminated by the Baltimore Ravens. Judge Fuller has been relieved of his caseload temporarily and hopes to return to “full, active status.”

For CNN, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin wrote that both Rice and Judge Fuller received “sweet deals” in court, and “it looks like the prosecutors failed in Atlantic City and Atlanta.” His essay was headlined, “Wife-beating is not a private matter.” Read more

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Arkansas Judge Receives Lifetime Ban for Ethics Violations

Judge Michael Maggio banned

Judge Michael Maggio banned

If the Arkansas Supreme Court approves sanctions against Circuit Judge Michael Maggio, he will be suspended for the rest of his term and barred from ever holding judicial office again, reports ArkansasOnline.

According to the Associated Press, the ban stems from disclosing confidential details about an adoption involving actress Charlize Theron and making off-color remarks in an online forum.

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