ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:
This cause comes before this Court pursuant to the recommendation of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, that Judge C. L. Quick be removed from the Office of Justice Court Judge for willful misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform the duties of his office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute.
C. L. Quick has been involved in public office for many years. He first served as constable and was elected Justice of the Peace and served in that capacity for twelve years until 1971, when he lost a bid for sheriff of Leake County. After shunning the political arena, Quick again threw his hat into the ring in 1983. That year he was elected Justice Court Judge, and he continues to serve in that capacity.
On August 1, 1988, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance [hereinafter Commission] filed a Formal Complaint charging the Respondent, C. L. Quick, Justice Court Judge for the Western District of Leake County, Mississippi, with judicial misconduct constituting a violation of Section 177A, Mississippi
Constitution, as amended (1890). On September 22, 1988, the
Respondent filed an Answer to the Formal Complaint, admitting certain parts of the Formal Complaint, denying the remainder and denying that his actions constituted judicial misconduct. On January 26, 1989, a hearing was held before a committee of the Commission.
The Commission found by clear and convincing evidence that during the time beginning approximately January 1, 1985, and continuing through March 22, 1988, the Respondent, in his official capacity as Justice Court Judge of Leake County, Mississippi, adjudicated approximately 28 DUI cases wherein he did not file, within five days of adjudication, an abstract of the Court record of convictions with the Commissioner of Public Safety as required by Mississippi Code Annotated 63-11-37 (1) (Supp. 1988).
The Commission also found by clear and convincing evidence that during the period January 1, 1985 through January 13, 1988, the Respondent adjudicated approximately 552 routine traffic convictions in addition to the DUI cases, but he failed to report these to the Department of Public Safety within forty-five (45) days as required by MCA 63-9-17 (Supp. 1988).
Based upon the evidence and these specific findings of fact, the Commission found by clear and convincing evidence that the Respondent's conduct violated Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3A(1) and 3B(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct of Mississippi Judges and that he violated Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution (1890), as amended. Accordingly, the Commission recommended to this Court that C. L. Quick be removed from office pursuant to Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution (1890).
THE RESPONDENT'S CONDUCT CONSTITUTES WILLFUL MISCONDUCT IN OFFICE, WILLFUL AND PERSISTENT FAILURE TO PERFORM THE DUTIES OF HIS OFFICE AND CONDUCT PREJUDICIAL TO THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE WHICH BRINGS THE JUDICIAL OFFICE INTO DISREPUTE.
The facts pertinent to this case are not in dispute. Quick has failed to file twenty-eight of his adjudications of DUI offenses and 552 other routine traffic offenses with the Department of Public Safety. It is obvious to us that Quick violated the law as the following statutes outline his duties regarding the handling of traffic offenses:
MCA 63-11-37 (Supp. 1988):
(1) It shall be the duty of the trial judge, upon conviction of any person under Section 63-11-30, to mail a copy of the abstract of the court record within five (5) days to the Commissioner of Public Safety at Jackson, Mississippi.
MCA 63-9-17 (Supp. 1988):
(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.
Where a judge, either by neglect or refusal, fails to comply with any of the above requirements, he will have committed misconduct and it would be grounds for removal from office. MCA 63-9-17 (5) (Supp. 1988). The Commission believes, and we agree, that the gravity of Quick's failure to comply with the law constitutes willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office in disrepute.
It is obvious that the statutes apply to the justice court judge. He is a judicial officer included in 63-9-17 (5), and it is his duty to mail the abstract to the Commissioner of Public Safety pursuant to 63-11-30. Respondent's failure to comply with the statute is a violation. For mitigation purposes, Quick tells us that he depended on the clerk of the justice court for filing the reports and that his handling of funds had never been questioned by the Mississippi Department of Audit. In addition, he had suffered a stroke and impaired vision during a part of the time set forth in the complaint.
Taking the above" excuses "into consideration, it is still apparent that Judge Quick violated the applicable statutes. The fact that he had never been audited is irrelevant because when an investigation was finally conducted, the evidence at hand was
discovered. In addition, Quick continued to be judge after his stroke and his non-compliance continued when he was no longer suffering from the conditions of the stroke. Consequently, these excuses do not justify sufficient evidence for mitigation to enable this Court to alter the recommendation of the Commission. This Court has explained that:
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. It involves more than an error of judgment or a mere lack of diligence. Necessarily, the term would encompass conduct involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption, and also any knowing misuse of the office, whatever the motive. However, these elements are not necessary to a finding of bad faith. A specific intent to use the powers of the judicial office to ...