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IN RE: INQUIRY CONCERNING COUNTY COURT JUDGE KELLY COLLINS

NOVEMBER 25, 1987

IN RE: INQUIRY CONCERNING COUNTY COURT JUDGE KELLY COLLINS




EN BANC.

SULLIVAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

In accordance with Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution (1890), this cause comes before this Court pursuant to the recommendation of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, that Judge Kelly Collins receive a public reprimand for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute. One commission member filed a dissent, calling for Collins' removal from office.

Kelly Collins is now, and at all times hereinafter mentioned was, a County Court Judge of Yazoo County, Mississippi. No other formal complaint of judicial misconduct has ever been filed against Collins by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (hereinafter the Commission). The record indicates however, that Judge Collins appeared before the Commission informally "about five, [or] five - and - a-half years ago" for one of the same reasons for which this formal complaint was filed.

 On June 9, 1986, the Commission filed a formal complaint against Judge Collins charging him with judicial misconduct constituting a violation of Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, as amended.

 On July 21, 1986, Judge Collins filed an answer to the formal complaint, admitting certain parts, denying the remainder, and denying that his actions constituted judicial misconduct.

 On November 14, 1986, a hearing was held before a committee of the Commission in this inquiry. At that time an Agreed Statement of Facts and Proposed Recommendation was submitted by Counsel for the Commission and Counsel for Judge Collins.

 In the agreed statement Judge Collins admitted that he had directed the activities of prisoners housed in the Yazoo County Jail for both county purposes and for personal purposes and that he had previously appeared before the Commission informally about this activity. The personal work included running personal errands, performing minor repairs and maintenance on the judge's personal truck and tractor, and assisting the judge in the demolition of a house. The judge also admitted that misdemeanor cases

 were adjudicated in the county court without case files, docket entries or other records of filing or disposition, and that as judge he was responsible for the administration of the court. Judge Collins further admitted failure to report a DUI conviction as required by statute and that he fined certain defendants in excess of the statutory maximums.

 It was also stated in the Agreed Statement that Judge Collins had cooperated fully with the Commission and that affirmative steps had been taken to ensure that the misconduct did not reoccur in the future.

 It was thereafter the recommendation of both the counsel for the Commission and counsel for Judge Collins that the Commission recommend to the Mississippi Supreme Court a public reprimand of Judge Collins for conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute.

 The Commission found, based upon the Agreed Statement of Fact and other evidence adduced at the hearing, by clear and convincing evidence that, Judge Collins had utilized prisoners for his own personal use, that he had failed to perform administrative functions in misdemeanor cases decided in his court, that said conduct violated the Code of Judicial Conduct of Mississippi Judges, and that it constituted conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute. The Commission then recommended, by a vote of five to one, that Judge Collins be publicly reprimanded pursuant to Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890, as Amended. One member filed a dissent, calling for Judge Collins' removal from office.

 Aside from using county prisoners for personal and county work, Collins heard and decided more than 100 misdemeanor cases "off the record" for which there are no case files, docket entries, or other records of filing or disposition in the office of the circuit clerk, who also serves as Clerk of the County Court. The only records of these cases are receipts issued by the circuit clerk in the names of the various defendants without any reference or citation to a case number or docket entry.

 Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 63-9-17 (Supp. 1986), provides in pertinent part:

 (1) Every court shall keep a full record of the proceedings of every case in which a person

 is charged with any violation of law regulating the operation of vehicles on the highways, streets or roads of this state.

 (2) Unless otherwise sooner required by law, within forty-five (45) days after the conviction of a person upon a charge of violating any law regulating the operation of vehicles on the highways, streets or roads of this state, every judge or clerk of the court in which such conviction was had shall prepare and immediately forward to the Department of Public Safety an abstract of the record of said court covering the case in which said person was so convicted, which abstract must be certified by the person so authorized to prepare the same to be true and correct.

 * * *

 (5) The failure by refusal or neglect of any such judicial officer to comply with any of the requirements of this section shall constitute misconduct in office and shall be ...


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