by Max Brantley
The judicial discipline hearing for Circuit Judge Willard Proctor of Little Rock (center) began this morning. Mara Leveritt is covering for us and will be providing updates. At right in the photo is his lead attorney, Austin Porter. Proctor is accused of violating judicial ethics rules in operation of Cycle Breakers, a probation program he started and which is sustained by revenue produced by fees he assesses in his court. He's accused of sending probationers to jail for failure to pay fees to the organization.
UPDATE: After the three-member panel heard, and denied, the expected motion to dismiss the case, testimony began. Former staff members talked of Proctor's handling of Cycle Breakers money, of uncomfortably close relationships with probationers and unstable behavior.
By Mara Leveritt\
A bailiff in Circuit Judge Willard Proctor’s court testified in a
hearing today that he saw the judge collect money for Cycle Breakers,
a nonprofit corporation. Richard Day spoke before a panel of the
Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that is
reviewing charges that Proctor has violated rules of official conduct
Day said Proctor “collected the money and he collected the fees” for
Cycle Breakers, both in his courtroom and in the hallway outside his
courtroom. Day said that on many occasions, “I saw him at a table full
of cash and I saw him counting the money.”
When asked if he ever saw Judge Proctor deposit money, Day said he had
not, but he added, “I saw him put the money in the bag and I saw him
walk out of the courthouse down the alley toward the bank.” Day said
that at a recent staff retreat Proctor said his No. 1 goal was for
Cycle Breakers to collect $250,000 in fees.
The panel hearing the charges against Proctor consists of Chuck
Dearman, a businessman from Monticello; Judge Leon Jamison, a circuit
judge from Pine Bluff, and Jerry Larkowski, a Little Rock attorney.
Austin Porter Jr. is representing Proctor with assistance from Rosalyn
Watts. Blake Hendrix, who had been representing Proctor, recently
filed a motion to withdraw from the judge’s defense due to a conflict
with a witness.
Staff of the JDDC presenting the findings against Proctor are David L.
Sachar, deputy executive director; and David A. Stewart, executive
The commission’s panel denied several motions presented by Proctor’s
defense before witnesses were called. One of those motions had asked
the panel not to allow “conclusory statements” to questions such as
“Who runs Cycle Breakers?” and “Did Judge Proctor control the
checkbook?” That request was also denied.
The panel was shown a 37-minute DVD, a video taken at a Cycle
Breakers’ meeting led by Proctor. It sounded in part like a religious
revival. Near the end, Proctor was heard crying and saying that his
judgeship was under attack. He told probationers, “I will help you
even if I lose my judgeship.”
At another point, the subject of a building to be bought for Cycle
Breakers was raised. Day said that Proctor showed his staff through
the building and told them where various offices would be. Day said he
was disturbed to hear Proctor tell the City Board that his court staff
would be responsible for security at the building, while at another
time he heard Proctor tell the Quorum Court that no county personnel
would be involved.
Witnesses expected to be called this afternoon are Sally Porter, Treva
Cooper and Zane Chrisman.