Mississippi Com'n on Judicial Performance v. Dodds

Decision Date08 August 1996
Docket NumberNo. 94-CC-00453-SCT,94-CC-00453-SCT
Citation680 So.2d 180
PartiesMISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE v. Floyd DODDS.
CourtMississippi Supreme Court

Luther T. Brantley, III, Jackson, for appellant.

Thomas H. Comer, Jr., Comer & Jenkins, Booneville, for appellee.

EN BANC.

BANKS, Justice, for the Court:

We are once again confronted with a judge accused of transgressing the Code of Judicial Conduct. After having examined the record we conclude that the recommendation by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance that Floyd Dodds be removed is a proper one and should be accepted. 1

I.

On April 9, 1993, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (Commission) filed a complaint charging Judge Floyd Dodds (Dodds), Justice Court Judge for the Northern District of Prentiss County, Mississippi, with judicial misconduct. An amended complaint was filed four weeks later. On November 29, 1993 a hearing was held before the Commission. Evidence as to several instances of Dodds' judicial misconduct was presented at trial.

The Matter at Grace Baptist Church:

Reverend Richard Owens, Pastor of Grace Baptist Church, testified that in August or September of 1992, certain members of the congregation led by David Denson (Denson) and James Moore (Moore) attempted to oust him as pastor during a business meeting. Owens testified that Denson and Moore obtained a temporary restraining order from Chancery Court Judge Timothy Irvin after they alleged that he was destroying the church. Owens testified that the restraining order prohibited him from going onto church property, however, the order was dissolved on October 8. Owens stated that he was thereafter arrested for trespassing when he returned to the church by a warrant signed by Dodds pursuant to a complaint filed by Denson. He testified that the arresting deputy escorted him to Dodds' office where Dodds set a bond of $1,000. Although Dodds was told that the restraining order was dissolved, Owens testified that Dodds did not want to discuss the matter.

Owens testified that when he returned to the parsonage to remove his belongings, he was met by threats and hollering by the opposition. He testified that when he went to the court to press charges, Dodds was in a meeting with Denson and refused to issue any warrants against the dissidents. He testified that he did file affidavits for warrants with Judge Caver.

Owens testified that he was arrested again on October 10 pursuant to a warrant issued by Dodds. He testified that when he arrived in Dodds' office, he received a copy of a temporary restraining order again forbidding him from going on church grounds. Prior to Dodds handing him the order in his office, Dodds testified that he had no notice of the order. On October 11 and November 3, Owens testified that he was arrested again in violation of the order, pursuant to a warrant issued by Dodds.

Owens testified that during his November 3 arrest, Dodds talked to him privately in a room in the sheriff's office and bond was posted. Owens testified that he taped the conversation. The tape was heard and introduced into evidence as exhibit 9.

On November 4, another disturbance occurred at the church. Owens testified that he was conducting Wednesday night service when he was again arrested by a deputy. He testified that Dodds arrived at the church and talked to Moore, Owens' wife, the deputy and others. Owens was thereafter taken to jail, and he testified that four charges were filed against him. He testified that when Dodds arrived at the jail, Dodds told him that he would let Owens out and sign the bond if Owens promised not to go back to the church until the case was settled. Owens testified that after he told Dodds that he couldn't make any promises because he lived in the parsonage and that, therefore, the situation would have to be settled in court, Dodds told him to go back to his cell. As a result of this incident, Owens testified that he stayed in jail approximately twenty hours.

Owens testified that on November 4, he attended a hearing for being in contempt of court for violation of the restraining order. He testified that Dodds and Judge Caver heard the cases and Dodds extended the restraining order 30 days.

Owens testified that Dodds spoke to him again when he went to obtain some paperwork on November 16 from the clerk's office informing him that the order applied to both sides of the dispute. Owens testified that he taped this conversation and the tape was introduced as exhibit 14.

Owens testified that in February 1993 he moved and nothing was ever done about the charges filed against him.

Floyd Dodds testified in his own behalf at trial. He stated that he took office October 9, 1991. He denied advising Owens that he could not file charges against the Moores or the Densons. He said that on October 10, Denson along with an attorney named Langston came to his office and told him that they needed an order to keep the preacher out of the church, and wanted him to issue a warrant. He testified that as he had "just been to school on that" and was unsure if he had authority to issue a warrant. He testified that he checked his books from the Mississippi Judicial College and from them understood that the Justice Court could issue a restraining order for five days. He admitted that the books to which he referred indicated that he had authority to issue a restraining order only in a domestic violence case, but stated that, because he was a new judge, he could have misunderstood the provision. He further stated that attorney Langston assured him that it was the proper thing to do and he issued the order based upon being told that somebody would drastically be hurt the next day at services if something wasn't done. Dodds testified that he issued a Justice Warrant and on the bottom of the warrant, he penciled in an order that Owens was excluded from church grounds except from the parsonage. He never gave Dodds a hearing prior to issuing the order.

Dodds testified that on November 4, he received a call from an employee at the sheriff's department stating that the church members were fighting and needed him at the church. Although he knew that he had no business going to the church, he went. He left after learning that Moore and Owens were in the police car and the situation was under control. He testified that going to the church was a bad mistake and that if he had it to do again, he would stay at home.

Dodds admitted that his handling of the church matter was a bad judgment call on his part, and that it was a bad situation of which he did not intentionally wish to get involved.

Franklin Oswalt also testified at trial. He testified that on October 8, 1992, he posted a $20 bond for Owens by check. He testified that he gave Dodds the check because he was the only one at court after five o'clock. He testified that Dodds did not give him a receipt.

Randy Tolar, investigator with the Prentiss County Sheriff's Department, also testified at trial. He testified that he was dispatched to the church on occasions and stated that he was concerned about the safety and welfare of the people in the church because they were acting like a bunch of children. Tolar also testified that after the November 4 altercation at the church, he was present when people were filing charges at the sheriff's office. He testified that a woman named Kim Jackson was charged and stated that Dodds offered to pay her bond when she stated that she didn't have any money to pay it.

Accepting and Loaning Money Without Legal Authority:

Dodds was called as a witness to answer charges that he accepted fine money and loaned bond money to defendants without authority to do so. As evidence that Dodds accepted fine money, the Commission introduced receipts indicating that Dodds received money paid by litigants. Dodds offered an explanation for some of the charges. There were others of which he had no recollection.

The Commission introduced a receipt indicating that Dodds paid a $20 bond fee for H.F. Sanders. Dodds testified that Sanders was charged with practicing as a CPA without a license. He testified that the clerk informed him that Sanders did not pay the bond fee, and in order to prevent the clerk from coming out short, he gave her $20 with the intention of collecting the money back from Sanders. Sanders' secretary later brought him the money.

The Commission also introduced a receipt for a $100 bond fee written to Dodds for Randy Hale. Dodds testified that Hale gave him bond money and he gave it to the clerk. The Commission introduced a receipt indicating that Dodds paid a $1 bond fee for William Moses. Dodds testified that the clerk came to him and requested that he give her $1 for Moses' bond because she gave Moses his receipts and completed the transaction prior to realizing that he owed a $1 bond. He stated that he gave her the $1 to balance her books.

The Commission introduced exhibit 28, a receipt reflecting payment received from Dodds on behalf of defendant Mike Wyatt. Dodds stated that he did not remember receiving the money and giving it to the clerks. The Commission introduced receipt 29, a receipt indicating that Dodds received $20 for Theresa Ballard. Dodds testified that Ballard was charged with contempt of court for not paying the ticket for an expired tag. He testified that Ballard's mother paid the $20 bond fee around seven o'clock in the evening to Constable Michael who placed it in the clerk's desk. Dodds later testified that he didn't recall if he or Michael was given the money, but Michael was the person who put it in the clerk's drawer. Dodds testified that he was familiar with Michael's testimony that he did not do it, but stated that Michael was mistaken.

The Commission introduced exhibits 31 and 32 which had Dodds' signature on it and indicated that Dodds received money from Allan Drake. However, Dodds did not recall receiving the money. In the case of Troy Martin,...

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34 cases
  • In re Coffey
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • April 18, 2008
    ...motive is more egregious than that "motivated by compassion for others," AJS Study, supra at 81; cf. Miss. Com'n on Jud. Performance v. Dodds, 680 So.2d 180, 190-200 (Miss.1996) ; and (2) misconduct that is the result of deliberation is generally more serious than that of a spontaneous natu......
  • Mississippi Com'n of Judicial Performance v. Russell
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • February 6, 1997
    ...no less violative of this Court's holdings in Chinn and Gunn as well as Canons 3A(1) and 3A(4). See Mississippi Com'n on Judicial Performance v. Dodds, 680 So.2d 180 (Miss.1996). In light of our holding in Chinn coupled with our prior decisions in such cases as Denton v. Maples, 394 So.2d 8......
  • In re Coffey's Case
    • United States
    • New Hampshire Supreme Court
    • April 18, 2008
    ...motive is more egregious than that "motivated by compassion for others," AJS Study, supra at 81; cf. Miss. Com'n on Jud. Performance v. Dodds, 680 So.2d 180, 190-200 (Miss.1996); and (2) misconduct that is the result of deliberation is generally more serious than that of a spontaneous natur......
  • In re Rose
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • June 10, 2004
    ...accord id. at 60-62. The extent of the misconduct includes "the number of persons affected" by it. See Miss. Comm'n on Jud. Perform. v. Dodds, 680 So.2d 180, 200 (Miss.1996). It also includes that the misconduct took place "over a substantial period of time." In re Jones, 255 Neb. 1, 581 N.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The ethical foundations of American judicial independence.
    • United States
    • Fordham Urban Law Journal Vol. 29 No. 3, February 2002
    • February 1, 2002
    ...10, 1987, at 1A (explaining the grounds for discipline), 1987 WL 4613603. (48.) See, e.g., Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Dodds, 680 So. 2d 180, 200 (Miss. 1996) (holding that removal was warranted for a judge who, among other things, engaged in ex parte communications); see also I......

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