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Mississippi Commission On Judicial Performance v. Curry

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

July 26, 2018

MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE
v.
MARY H. CURRY

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/31/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE HON. KENT McDANIEL TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DARLENE D. BALLARD RACHEL W. MICHEL MEAGAN E. BRITTAIN.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: DERRICK T. SIMMONS.

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance (Commission) filed a formal complaint against Justice Court Judge Mary Curry. The complaint outlined multiple allegations of misconduct on the part of Judge Curry, and ultimately, the Commission and Judge Curry entered into an agreed stipulation of facts, with a proposed recommendation of a public reprimand. The Commission and Judge Curry filed a joint motion for approval of the recommendation with the Court. We accept and affirm the Commission's recommendation of a public reprimand.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Judge Curry served as the justice court judge for the Eastern District of Claiborne County. In the instant case, Judge Curry agreed to the following findings of fact:

1. Judge Curry "has signed warrants based on affidavits sworn by her relatives . . . ." After signing the warrants, Judge Curry would not set bond even though the charges were misdemeanors. Judge Curry would recuse herself from the case, citing her relationship to the affiants.
2. Judge Curry "disposed of Protection from Domestic Abuse Petitions, in violation of the Mississippi Protection From Domestic Abuse Act . . . [by] display[ing] a pattern of dismissing Petition for Order of Protection From Domestic Abuse without having the statutorily mandated hearing."
3. Judge Curry "presided over the Initial Appearance of . . . a relative concerning his Possession of a Controlled Substance charge" setting the bond at $50, 000. However, later, the relative filed "what purports to be a Motion for Bond Reduction. The Motion for Bond Reduction is blank and it does not state any reason for [the relative]'s bond to be reduced[, ]" and only contains the relative's signature. Yet, Judge Curry granted the reduction and reduced bond to $5, 000.
4. Judge Curry waived an expungement fee and "directed the clerks to void the receipts in [the] matter and to refund . . . the money."
5. Judge Curry, "after being informed of th[e instant matter] and the identity of the complainant[, ] submitted a letter to the Claiborne County Board of Supervisors, requesting that they transfer the complainant from her position as Justice Court Clerk." Judge Curry cited the filing of the complaint as a reason for removal.

         Judge Curry stipulated that her conduct as outlined above, violated the following canons of the Code of Judicial Conduct: Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(2), 3B(5), 3B(7), 3B(8), and 3C(1). Additionally, Judge Curry stipulated that her conduct also violated Mississippi Code Section 93-21-11 (Rev. 2013) and Mississippi Code Section 25-7-25 (Rev. 2010). Lastly, Judge Curry agreed that her conduct violated Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution as it is conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the judicial office into disrepute.

         ¶3. The Commission and Judge Curry agreed to a proposed recommendation of a public reprimand. On March 12, 2018, the Commission filed a joint motion requesting the Court approve the Commission's findings of fact and recommendation.

         ANALYSIS

         ¶4. According to Section 177A of the Mississippi Constitution:

On recommendation of the commission on judicial performance, the Supreme Court may remove from office, suspend, fine or publicly censure or reprimand any justice or judge of this state for: (a) actual conviction of a felony in a court other than a court of the State of Mississippi; (b) willful misconduct in office; (c) willful and persistent failure to perform his duties; (d) habitual intemperance in the use of alcohol or other drugs; or (e) conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute; and may retire involuntarily any justice or judge for physical or mental disability seriously interfering with the performance of his duties, which disability is or is likely to become of a permanent character.

         Also, Commission on Judicial Performance Rule 10(E) provides that the Court "shall prepare and publish a written opinion and judgment directing such disciplinary action, if any, as it finds just and proper. The Supreme Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendation of the ...


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