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Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Thomas

October 22, 1998

MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE
v.
JAMES E. THOMAS



DATE OF JUDGMENT: 1/6/98

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MISSISSIPPI JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE COMMISSION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE

¶1. On July 10, 1997, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance filed a formal complaint against Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge James E. Thomas alleging judicial misconduct for first offense driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor. A hearing was held before a three member committee of the Commission exactly three months later. After full consideration of arguments, the committee found that Judge Thomas's conduct on the evening of March 1, 1997, brought the reputation of the judicial office into disrepute, violating Canons 1 and 2A of the Judicial Code of Conduct. *fn1 The committee thereafter recommended that Judge Thomas be privately admonished in accordance with Miss. Code Ann. § 9-19-11(1972).

¶2. The full Commission considered the committee findings of fact and recommendations on December 12, 1997. By a vote of 6-0, with one commissioner abstaining, the commission adopted the committee's findings of fact. It split, however, on the appropriate sanction for Judge Thomas. The three Commission members who conducted the committee hearing voted to privately reprimand Judge Thomas. The remaining three Commission members voted for a public reprimand. As a result of this deadlocked vote, the members present the record and their findings to this Court without benefit of a formal recommendation.

II.

¶3. Mississippi Court of Appeals Judge James E. Thomas was arrested and charged with first offense driving under the influence on March 1, 1997. A few days later, prior to his scheduled court date, Judge Thomas pleaded guilty. He was fined $500, his license was suspended for 90 days, and he was ordered to enroll in MASAP. Judge Thomas paid his fine and all court costs, and enrolled in MASAP within the same week.

III.

¶4. "This Court conducts de novo review of judicial misconduct proceedings, giving great deference to the findings, based on clear and convincing evidence, of the recommendations of the Mississippi Judicial Performance Commission." Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. Gunn, 614 So.2d 387, 389 (Miss.1993) (citations omitted).

IV.

¶5. The first issue brought by the commission concerns the finding that Judge Thomas's conduct violates Canons 1 and 2A of the Judicial Code of Conduct. Judge Thomas and this Court agree with the commission's finding. See In re Esquiroz, 654 So.2d 558 (Fla.1995); In re Gloeckner, 626 So.2d 188 (Fla.1993); In re Alsip, 499 N.E.2d 1102 (Ind.1986); In re Killam, 447 N.E.2d 1233 (Mass. 1983); In re Annich, 617 A.2d 664 (N.J. 1993); In re Collester, 599 A.2d 1275 (N.J. 1992); Matter of Lawson, 124 N.J. 280, 590 A.2d 1132 (1991); In re Connor, 589 A.2d 1347 (N.J. 1991). In addition, we agree that Judge Thomas's DUI conviction constitutes conduct prejudicial to the administration of Justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute. See Mississippi Comm'n on Judicial Performance v. McRae, 700 So.2d 1331 (Miss.Const.Trib.1997). Accordingly, we focus our attention on the issue of sanctions.

V.

ΒΆ6. The Commission on Judicial Performance was created by Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890. This section provides the ...


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