Miss. High Court Upholds Judge’s Public Reprimand

     (CN) — Mississippi’s high court publicly reprimanded a former judge on Thursday for “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
     On Aug, 26, 2015, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found that former Municipal Court Judge Latisha Nicole Clinkscales should be publicly reprimanded for her actions.
     Clinkscales served as the Municipal City Judge for the City of Columbus from 2010 until her resignation in 2015 and also served as the Columbus Drug Court Judge until her resignation on Feb. 6, 2014.
     On June 9, 2014, the commission filed a formal complaint against Clinkscales, who either denied the allegations or claimed she was without sufficient information to ascertain the veracity of the allegations in an answer filed on July 17, 2014.
     On Aug. 11, 2015, the commission and Clinkscales filed an Agreed Statement of Facts and Proposed Recommendation.
     Clinkscales admitted to four areas of misconduct, including statements on social media, her running of the drug court, her statements in a newspaper interview and her conduct in the courtroom.
     In regards to social media, Clinkscales admitted to publicly endorsing a candidate with a statement, which is a violation of Canon 5(A)(1) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
     While overseeing the drug court, Clinkscales ordered individuals to enter the program who had not volunteered, kept some participants in the program longer than the law allowed and ordered her nephew into the program, in violation of constitutional and statutory law.
     Clinkscales admitted to giving false and misleading statements to a newspaper reporter about her June 2009 arrest for failing to obey a police officer. Clinkscales told the reporter that she was innocent and was expected to be cleared of the charges, but later pleaded no contest to the charge of disobeying a police officer.
     Finally, Clinkscales admitted to “allegations that she routinely started court late and acted in a manner which could be construed as discourteous and exhibiting poor courtroom demeanor,” according to court documents.
     The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously upheld the suggestion of a public reprimand and assessed $563.18 upon Clinkscales to cover costs of the investigation.
     “Clinkscales’s extrajudicial acts of publicly endorsing a political candidate and giving misleading answers in a newspaper interview cast reasonable doubt on her ability to act impartially as a judge and have demeaned the public office,” the court en banc wrote. “She failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary. Moreover, by allowing drug-court participants to remain in the program longer than the law allowed, presiding over a case involving a family member, and exhibiting poor courtroom demeanor, Clinkscales failed to maintain the requisite high standard of conduct while acting in her official capacity as a judge.”
     Clinkscales will be publicly reprimanded in open court by the presiding judge of Lowndes County on the first day of the next term in which a jury venire is present.

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