OF JUDGMENT: 10/23/2018
MISSISSIPPI COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL PERFORMANCE. HON. KENT
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DARLENE D. BALLARD RACHEL WILSON
MICHEL MEAGAN COURTNEY BRITTAIN
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: RICHARD B. LEWIS
On July 17, 2017, Jesse Burton-a justice court judge for the
Southern District of Coahoma County-filed an affidavit
claiming his former girlfriend had stolen money and personal
property from him. Based on this affidavit, another justice
court judge issued an arrest warrant for Judge Burton's
girlfriend, Regina Burt. But before the warrant was served,
Judge Burton changed his mind and instructed the clerk's
office to rescind the warrant that the other judge had
issued. As directed, the deputy clerk replaced Judge
Burton's girlfriend's name on the warrant with Jane
Doe and instructed the sheriff's office not to execute
Acting on a complaint from Burt, on August 29, 2018, the
Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance filed a formal
complaint against Judge Burton, who cooperated and entered an
agreed stipulation of facts with the Commission. The
parties' agreement included the Commission's
recommended sanction of a public reprimand and $500 fine.
After review, this Court agrees with the Commission's
findings and recommended sanction.
Facts and Procedural History
As part of the stipulation of agreed facts, which included a
proposed sanction, Judge Burton agreed he committed
misconduct when he ordered a deputy clerk to rescind his
former girlfriend's arrest warrant. He agreed he violated
Canons 1, 2A, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(2), and 3E(1) of the Code of
Judicial Conduct of Mississippi and Mississippi Code Section
97-11-1. This was Judge Burton's first disciplinary
matter before the Commission in his twenty-seven-year career
as a justice court judge. And the Commission recommended he
be publicly reprimanded and fined $500. After a hearing, the
Commission adopted the agreed stipulation of facts and
recommended sanction in a five-to-one vote. The Commission
and Judge Burton filed a joint motion, asking this Court
accept the Commission's findings and recommended
Mississippi Constitution article 6, section 177A, vests this
Court with the power to, on the recommendation of the
Commission on Judicial Performance, "remove from office,
suspend, fine or publicly censure or reprimand any justice or
judge of this state for . . ." willful misconduct in
office or conduct prejudicial to the administration of
justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute. Miss.
Const. art. 6, § 177A; see also Miss. Comm'n on
Judicial Performance v. Vess, 227 So.3d 952, 956 (Miss.
2017). As the ultimate decision-maker in judicial performance
cases, we conduct an independent review of the record.
Miss. Comm'n on Judicial Performance v.
Thompson, 80 So.3d 86, 88 (Miss. 2012). While we
carefully consider the Commission's findings and
recommendations, we are not bound by them and may impose
lesser or more severe sanctions. Miss. Comm'n on
Judicial Performance v. Osborne, 16 So.3d 16, 19 (Miss.
2009). This is true even when the Commission and judge enter
into a joint recommendation. Miss. Comm'n on Judicial
Performance v. Sanford, 941 So.2d 209, 217-18 (Miss.
2006). In short, our task is to determine if the judge
committed misconduct and, if so, to decide on an appropriate
Judge Burton acknowledged and agreed that rescinding an
arrest warrant, signed by another judge in a matter in which
he was a party, prejudiced the administration of justice and
brought the judicial office into disrepute. And he
acknowledged and agreed that his actions violated Canons 1,
2A, 2B, 3B(1), 3B(2), and 3E(1) of the Code of Judicial
Conduct of Mississippi and Mississippi Code Section
This Court has found willful misconduct when a judge
interfered in matters before another judge. See
Thompson, 80 So.3d at 92. Willful misconduct may also
exist when a judge has a clear conflict of interest, but
still remains involved in the case. See Miss. Comm'n
on Judicial Performance v. Bowen, 123 So.3d 381, 384-85
(Miss. 2013); see also Miss. Comm'n on Judicial
Performance v. Hartzog, 32 So.3d 1188, 1193-94 (Miss.
Judge Burton interfered with an arrest warrant that another
judge had issued. Judge Burton was also a party in that
matter. Both he and the Commission agreed his willful
misconduct prejudiced the administration of justice and
brought the ...