Miss. Com'n On Jud. Perf. v. Osborne

Citation16 So.3d 16
Decision Date18 June 2009
Docket NumberNo. 2008-JP-01222-SCT.,2008-JP-01222-SCT.
PartiesMISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE v. Solomon C. OSBORNE.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi

Luther T. Brantley, III, Darlene D. Ballard, attorneys for appellant.

Soloman Osborne, pro se, Leonard McClellan, Jackson, attorneys for appellee.

EN BANC.

PIERCE, Justice, for the Court.

¶ 1. On February 12, 2007, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (Commission) filed a formal complaint against Solomon C. Osborne, County Court Judge, LeFlore County, Mississippi, alleging judicial misconduct which was actionable pursuant to Article 6, Section 177A, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, as amended. The Commission filed the action in part due to a citizen's complaint by V.K.1 Judge Osborne filed an answer to the formal complaint, denying the claims, with a motion to dismiss and affirmative defenses. The Commission had a hearing on the allegations on November 7, 2007. Thereafter, the Commission filed its Findings of Fact, Analysis and Recommendations on December 14, 2007. Judge Osborne objected to these findings. The Commission filed a second set of findings of fact, and Judge Osborne objected to these findings as well.

¶ 2. On July 16, 2008, the Commission filed its Commission Findings of Fact and Recommendation with this Court. The Commission found by clear and convincing evidence that Judge Osborne had violated Canons 1, 2(A), and 3(E) of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission also determined that Judge Osborne had violated Article 6, Section 177A, Mississippi Constitution of 1890, as amended, by conducting himself in a way that constituted willful misconduct in office and by conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, bringing his judicial office into disrepute. The Commission also found that Judge Osborne's assertion that the inquiry was a result of racial bias was not supported by any evidence to substantiate the claim, and therefore, the Commission denied his motion to dismiss.

¶ 3. The Commission recommended that Judge Osborne be removed from office restrained from seeking a judicial office in the State of Mississippi in the future and assessed all costs of the proceedings in the sum of $1,389.69. This Court adopts the Commission's findings that Judge Osborne violated Canons 1, 2(A), and 3(E). Further, this Court removes Judge Osborne from office and orders that he pay the assessed costs of this proceeding in the amount of $1,389.69. This Court also upholds the Commission's decision to deny his motion to dismiss.

FACTS

¶ 4. On May 5, 2006, L.K., a minor, was detained for allegedly pointing at gun at K.W., another minor, and stating that she would "blow her head off." V.K., L.K.'s mother, was out of town at the time of the alleged incident. V.K. returned to Greenwood on May 7. She hired an attorney, Levi Boone. Later that day, Judge Osborne released L.K. from the juvenile detention center into her mother's custody. The next day V.K. met with A. Lee Abraham, Jr., and hired him to represent L.K.

¶ 5. A detention hearing was scheduled for May 9, 2006. Abraham informed the court that he had been retained as L.K.'s attorney, however, he would not be able to attend the hearing. V.K. and L.K. attended the detention hearing. After asking a few preliminary questions at the hearing, Judge Osborne stated, "This is supposed to be a detention hearing, I understand you have retained Lee Abraham as your attorney and I don't hear his cases. What we are going to do is continue this detention hearing until another judge can be appointed." Judge Osborne signed an order which stated, in part:

11. After reviewing this matter, the Court has determined that the fact [sic] of the case shows that the child is a danger to herself or others within the meaning of Mississippi Code Section 43-21-301.

12. At the Detention Hearing, the mother of the child advised the Court that she would or has retained Attorney Lee Abraham to represent her. Mr. Abraham has not filed an entry of appearance in this matter, but has informed the Court Administrator that he represents the minor herein.

13. Based upon the announcement that the minor is represented by Attorney Lee Abraham, this Court will recusal [sic] itself from any further proceedings in this case and this matter will be handled by the Special Youth Court Judge, Honorable James Littleton, III.

14. Based upon the Complaint filed in this matter, this Court has determined that a Custody Order should be issued pursuant to Miss.Code Section 43-21-301, and the minor will be placed back in custody pending a Detention Hearing.

¶ 6. On May 10, 2006, L.K. had a detention hearing before Special Judge Littleton. He ordered L.K. to be placed in custody.

¶ 7. Thereafter, Abraham filed a Writ of Prohibition with this Court. A panel of this Court granted the writ on May 26, 2006, finding that, after Judge Osborne recused himself, he lacked authority to take any further action in the case. This Court vacated all actions, rulings, and orders entered by Judge Osborne following his recusal. More specifically, this Court found that Judge Osborne was without authority to appoint James K. Littleton as a special judge in the matter and vacated all actions, rulings, and orders entered by Special Judge Littleton. This Court appointed a special judge to hear the matter and ordered L.K.'s release to her mother.

DISCUSSION

¶ 8. In a judicial misconduct proceeding, this Court conducts a de novo review. Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Thompson, 972 So.2d 582, 585 (Miss.2008). This Court also affords "deference to the Commission's recommendations when the Commission's findings are based on clear and convincing evidence." Id. Notwithstanding this deference, this Court is the sole authority for the imposition of sanctions in cases involving judicial misconduct and, therefore, we are obligated to conduct an independent inquiry in each case. Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Carr, 990 So.2d 763, 766 (Miss.2008). This Court is not bound by the Commission's findings, and we may impose additional sanctions. Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Boland, 975 So.2d 882, 888 (Miss.2008) (Boland I).

I. WHETHER JUDGE OSBORNE'S CONDUCT CONSTITUTES WILLFUL MISCONDUCT PREJUDICIAL TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE WHICH BRINGS THE JUDICIAL OFFICE INTO DISREPUTE PURSUANT TO SECTION 177A OF THE MISSISSIPPI CONSTITUTION.

¶ 9. In judicial misconduct proceedings, this Court is tasked with the duty to determine whether the conduct of the judge in question constitutes willful misconduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the judicial office into disrepute under Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, as amended. This Court has defined willful misconduct as follows:

"Willful misconduct in office is the improper or wrongful use of power of his office by a judge acting intentionally, or with gross unconcern for his conduct and generally in bad faith. . . . A specific intent to use the powers of the judicial office to accomplish a purpose which the judge knew or should have known was beyond the legitimate exercise of his authority constitutes bad faith. . . . Willful misconduct in office of necessity is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute."

Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Sanford, 941 So.2d 209, 212-213 (Miss. 2006) (quoting Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Gibson, 883 So.2d 1155, 1157 (Miss.2004)). This Court has stated that "[w]hether this behavior was actually willful is of no consequence." Boland I, 975 So.2d at 893 (citing Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Boykin, 763 So.2d 872, 875 (Miss.2000)). This Court has held:

While the conduct of Respondent, in our opinion, amounted to willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, bringing the judicial office into disrepute, we recognize as quoted in In re Anderson, supra, that a judge may also, through negligence or ignorance not amounting to bad faith, behave in a manner prejudicial to the administration of justice so as to bring the judicial office into disrepute. The result is the same regardless of whether bad faith or negligence and ignorance are involved and warrants sanctions.

Boykin, 763 So.2d at 875 (quoting In re Anderson, 451 So.2d 232, 234 (Miss.1984)).

¶ 10. The Commission determined, based on clear and convincing evidence, that Judge Osborne had violated Canons 1, 2(A), and 3(E) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.2 The Commission further found that Judge Osborne's conduct constituted willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, bringing his judicial office into disrepute. The Commission's decision was based on the actions Judge Osborne took after he recused himself from the case. The transcript from the detention hearing showed that Judge Osborne recused himself from hearing L.K.'s case based on the counsel that V.K. had retained on her daughter's behalf. The transcript also reveals that, once Judge Osborne recused himself from the case, he again detained L.K. in the Juvenile Detention Center until she had a new hearing. Following the hearing, Judge Osborne, in an order, recused himself, then appointed a special judge to hear L.K.'s case, and redetained L.K. in the Juvenile Detention Center until she had a new hearing. This Court granted, in part, a petition for writ of prohibition and supplement to petition for writ of prohibition and additional plea for writ of habeas corpus filed by counsel for L.K., finding that all actions, rulings, and orders entered by Judge Osborne following his recusal were vacated, including the appointment and all actions of the special judge. The canons which the Commission determined Judge Osborne violated are as follows:

¶ 11. Canon 1 provides:

A Judge Shall Uphold the Integrity and Independence of...

To continue reading

Request your trial
15 cases
  • MISS. COM'N ON JUD. PERFORMANCE v. Hartzog, 2009-JP-01022-SCT.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • April 22, 2010
    ...11. The standard of review for this Court in judicial misconduct proceedings is de novo. Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Osborne, 16 So.3d 16, 18 (Miss.2009) (Osborne IV); Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Vess, 10 So.3d 486, 489 (Miss.2009); Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performan......
  • Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Skinner
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • August 1, 2013
    ......Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Osborne, 16 So.3d 16, 19 (Miss.2009). This is true even when the ......
  • Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Weisenberger, 2015-JP-00246-SCT
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 13, 2016
    ......The Osborne Court found that this Court is not limited “in its ......
  • Miss. Comm'n On Judicial Performance v. Cowart
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 20, 2011
    ......Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Osborne, 16 So.3d 16, 19 (Miss.2009) ( Osborne IV )); Miss. Comm'n ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT