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LJWorld.com weblogs Sharpening My Pen

First Amendment Out the Window

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http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/308137

I thought living in Kansas under Brownback was bad. I'm not sure even he would tolerate a judge going this far. In a nutshell, Mississippi Justice Court Judge Theresa Brown Dearman was suspended for thirty days without pay, publicly censured and ordered to pay court costs by the Mississippi Supreme Court for judicial misconduct. Amazingly, in two different cases when she set bail she ordered that not only did the accused have to post bond, as a condition of their bail they also had to ATTEND CHURCH, in one case once per week and in another twice per week. Um, can we say First Amendment violation?
The Honorable Dearman went so far as to PLEAD IGNORANCE. She is not an attorney and, under Mississippi law, state justices are not required to even be conversant with the law, much less hold an attorney's license.
And people seriously wonder why there are parts of the population who mistrust the courts to mete out anything close to justice.

Comments

autie 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, ain't it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved. I guess I'm the only one that remains unaffiliated.

Liberty275 3 years, 5 months ago

This ain't no laughing matter Everette... errrrm Auntie.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

Is the glass half full or is it half empty?

Without knowing anything about this case other that what is written above, this looks to be a clear case where a individual (in this case a justice on a small court) made a mistake and a higher court undid the mistake. We can't expect every decision by every court in the country to be a correct decision. Hopefully, upon more reflection, courts will make more reasoned decisions. That happened here.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 5 months ago

I provided a link to the original news article re: this matter. If you Google Theresa Brown Dearman you'll find more.

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 5 months ago

I also would like to argue with the idea that this was a "small court". She was a state level justice, not a municipal judge or Justice of the Peace. This goes beyond "making a mistake". She flagrantly disregarded the law from the bench, in certain cases over the objection of the District Attorney.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

I looked at the link you provided, thank you. What is pretty clear from the article is that this justice has made a wide range of mistakes beyond this one issue. She was rightfully admonished for violating the Mississippi Constitution in this matter but she was also admonished for rulings that had nothing to do with church, religion or the separation of church and state. At least from the information in the article, she appears to be unqualified to be a judge. Interestingly, she is not an attorney. I guess that is permissible. I wonder how is came to be that she sits at the bench? Was she elected, as is common in some states? If that is so, then undoing an election might be something that others powers within the state might be reluctant to do. But this justice was suspended for 30 days, publicly censured and ordered to pay court costs. To me, anyway, it seems that the system is working just fine. She can either learn from her mistakes and make better rulings from the bench or she will be punished.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

A judge who is unqualified to be a judge remaining one is an example of the system "working just fine"?

How can that be?

jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

Well, I'm guessing here, but if this judge was elected, then having a judge who is unqualified is no better or no worse than any of our other elected officials. It's the same system that elects Bush, Brownback, Weiner, etc. If the judge is not elected, then what we have by design is a system that knows mistakes will be made by non-lawyers, but has put in a system of oversight. Perhaps there is the belief that lay people bring something to the process that lawyers do not and that something is of value. It's a trade off, mistakes sometimes by judges offset by a voice by the people (elections) plus the "common" wisdom of lay people.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

Except that judges, by virtue of their job, should be qualified in their understanding of the law.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 5 months ago

If that were true, there would be no need for appellate courts. Clearly this judge made a mistake, other judges make mistakes also. The things I was alluding to, things I admit I'm guessing about, is that perhaps there is something to be gained by having the common wisdom of the electorate and non-lawyers. That gain should be weighed against the rogue judge who makes wrongheaded decisions.

jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

There's a clear difference between an unqualified judge, and differences of opinion about interpreting the law.

gkerr 3 years, 5 months ago

Cait48, The judge was off base no question. She was overruled and corrected. The bill of rights was upheld.
Gkerr

Cait McKnelly 3 years, 5 months ago

Indeed it was, Mr. Kerr. The problem is that it had to be upheld at all. This is not just a judge, but a state justice. Such a person should be, at the very least, conversant with the US Constitution. And it begs the question; given the circumstances of this case, how many times has such flagrant disregard from the bench for the law occured? It's a HUGE ethics question.

goodcountrypeople 3 years, 5 months ago

Isn't this a case where slippery-slope logic applies? If Brownback is ordering Kansas parolees to kowtow to faith-based mentors what is the difference in principle between that and the Mississippi judge case??

Cai 3 years, 5 months ago

one major difference? There's a higher court in MS that stepped in. No one has or will step in against brownback, in part because of the view that parolees don't get/have the same rights that the rest of us do (which is crap, but doesn't change the view).

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