734 F.3d 830 (8th Cir. 2013), 12-3564, Simes v. Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Com'n

Docket Nº:12-3564.
Citation:734 F.3d 830
Opinion Judge:RILEY, Chief Judge.
Party Name:L.T. SIMES, II, Plaintiff-Appellant v. ARKANSAS JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE AND DISABILITY COMMISSION; John Everett, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; H. William Allen, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; Reginald Du
Attorney:George Emanual Hairston, New York, NY, Terrence Cain, Little Rock, AR, for appellant. Mark N. Ohrenberger, AAG, Little Rock, AR, for appellee.
Judge Panel:Before RILEY, Chief Judge, BRIGHT and BYE, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:October 31, 2013
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
 
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734 F.3d 830 (8th Cir. 2013)

L.T. SIMES, II, Plaintiff-Appellant

v.

ARKANSAS JUDICIAL DISCIPLINE AND DISABILITY COMMISSION; John Everett, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; H. William Allen, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; Reginald Duane Hamman, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; William A. Story, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; Chris E. Williams, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission; David Stewart, individual and official capacity as member of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 12-3564.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 31, 2013

Submitted: Sept. 25, 2013.

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George Emanual Hairston, New York, NY, Terrence Cain, Little Rock, AR, for appellant.

Mark N. Ohrenberger, AAG, Little Rock, AR, for appellee.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, BRIGHT and BYE, Circuit Judges.

RILEY, Chief Judge.

L.T. Simes, II, is the first African-American circuit court (trial court) judge elected in Phillips County, Arkansas. During disciplinary proceedings against him before the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (commission), Simes filed a federal lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against the commission and six of its officials: five commissioners and Executive Director David Stewart (collectively, officials). 1

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The district court 2 denied Simes' request for a temporary restraining order and stayed federal proceedings in accordance with the Younger abstention doctrine, see Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669 (1971). The state disciplinary proceedings ended with a decision by the Arkansas Supreme Court (1) accepting the commission's findings that Simes violated two canons of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct; (2) rejecting the commission's findings that Simes violated four other canons; and (3) ordering the commission to reprimand Simes. See Ark. Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n v. Simes, 381 S.W.3d 764, 769, 779 (Ark.2011) ( Simes II ). The district court then granted the commission and officials' Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) motion to dismiss, finding no justiciable federal controversy. Considering Simes' appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291, and reviewing the record and the district court's well-reasoned opinions, we affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Arkansas State Proceedings

Simes alleges the following facts.3 Since 1997, Simes has been an elected trial level judge in Phillips County, Arkansas. Voters re-elected him in 2000, 2004, and 2010. Simes' judicial career did not lead him to renounce his extrajudicial activities as a " successful business man [sic]," notably co-owning a local radio station and producing a CD of religious music (composed and sung by Simes himself).

Between 2004 and 2007, more complaints were filed against Simes " than any other judge under the jurisdiction of the Commission." During this period, the commission sanctioned Simes twice, once " for appearing in his judicial robes on the cover of a CD he produced" and once for " ‘ making personal solicitations for campaign contributions' during his 2004 election." In early 2008, the commission notified Simes the commission would hold probable cause hearings in five of the pending complaints against him. Simes agreed to a letter of reprimand in one of the complaints, based upon his two-month delay in entering an order after having ruled from the bench in a time-sensitive election dispute. See Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n, Letter of Reprimand, Case No. 07-259 (2008). The commission dismissed one of the complaints (No. 07-142), and found probable cause for disciplinary hearings on the remaining three complaints (Nos. 06-171, 05-112, and 05-123).

The first case to proceed to a disciplinary hearing was number 06-171, referred to by Simes as the " Chandler case." Proceedings took place in early 2009, and the commission recommended the Arkansas Supreme Court " permanently remove[ ] [Simes] from his position as Circuit Judge for practicing law and serving as a fiduciary while on the bench." In Judicial Discipline & Disability Comm'n v. Simes, 354 S.W.3d 72 (Ark.2009) ( Simes I ), the Arkansas Supreme Court unanimously agreed with the commission that Simes " created the appearance, in reasonable minds, that [he] was unable to perform his duties with integrity, impartiality, and competence." Id. at 79; see id. at 85 (Hannah, C.J., concurring and dissenting);

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id. at 87 (Danielson, J., concurring and dissenting). The Arkansas Supreme Court also found Simes improperly " engaged in the practice of law" and " served as a fiduciary ... while he was a judge." 4 Id. at 78-79 (majority opinion). Although two justices would have permanently removed Simes from the bench, see id. at...

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