by David Koon
Executive Director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission Dave Stewart says the hearing will conclude within the next 30 minutes or so. He said the next step will be for each side to file a summation, in the form of a legal brief, that will be delivered to each member of the three-person panel that presided over Proctor's hearing. A timeline for the completion of those briefs will be set today and will, according to Stewart, certainly be ready within 30 days. Members of the panel will create a final report for the full nine-member commission. The commission will then review the report and decide Proctor's fate. The final report to the full commission will be due in 60 days.
UPDATE: The hearing concludes with a statement by Proctor that he believed if he had done anything wrong, prosecutors, defense attorneys and officials would have stopped him.
Read Mara Leveritt's report on this morning's proceedings on the jump.
It was the turn of 5th Division Circuit Court Judge William Proctor Jr. to present witnesses on his side this morning in the hearing to decide whether he should remain a judge.
A witness called by his lawyer told a three member panel of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that Cycle Breakers Inc., a nonprofit that worked for Proctor's court, is in good standing with the Internal Revenue Service.
Agather McKeel, the attorney for Cycle Breakers Inc., said that the organization received a letter from the IRS on April 15th, stating that as a result of an audit begun in October 2008, Cycle Breakers Inc. would retain its federal tax-exempt status.
The IRS letter conflicts with opinions stated earlier in the hearing by Bruce Engstrom, a North Little Rock accountant. Engstrom testified that Cycle Breakers, Inc's claims to the IRS on its application for tax exempt status were not accurate because while the IRS requests that a non-profit's funding comes from voluntary contributions, almost all of the funding for Cycle Breakers Inc. comes from fees and fines that probationers are ordered to pay by Proctor in his court.
Austin Porter Jr., who is representing Proctor, then asked McKeel about an order that she said Proctor had issued last month. That order, dated April 1, 2009, stipulated that Cycle Breakers Inc. would no longer receive the $20 per month from probationers that he has heretofore required them to pay.
McKeel said that as a result of the order, the board of Cycle Breakers Inc. has held discussions about what must now wbe done to assure that the organization "will continue, regardless what's going on with Fifth Division Circuit Court."
David J. Sachar, Deputy Director of the JDDC, asked McKeely if the "vast majority" of Cycle Breakers, Inc's funding came from probationers in Judge Proctor's court.
McKeely agreed that it did.
Jerry Larkowski, a member of the JDDC panel, questioned the make up of Cycle Breakers, Inc's board, with others have said consists of about 11 probabtioners and 4 or 5 non probationers. Larkowski asked McKeel, "has it concerned you that the board seems to operate mostly with people who are on felony probation?" She said it did not. Asked by Larkowski about the "source of revenue" for Cycle Breakers Inc. McKeel repiled "we know our structure is going to modify."
Judge Leon Jamison, who is officiating at this hearing, then asked McKeel about a case currently being heard in Proctor's Court in which she represents a client. McKeel responded that Proctor had informed all attorneys involved in the case that she was the lawyer for Cycle Breakers Inc. McKeel also said she had attended several Cycle Breakers meetings, and that contrary to what others have stated, no prayers were offered at those meetings.
Porter called City Director Joan Adcock to testify, and she was questioned by Proctor himself. Adcock explained how the city board has granted a zoning variance for Cycle Breakers Inc. to operate out of an unused school on Apperson Street, and how it then, on a later vote, had reversed that action. Adcock said she considered that turnaround by the board "inappropriate."
Next, Pulaski County Attorney Karla Burnett was called to testify abotu communications Proctor had had with her regarding the collection of fees for Cycle Breakers Inc. by the county -- a process that was stopped after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued an opinion that that was improper.
Steve Sipes, court administrator for the Pulaski Circuit Clerk's Office, then testified on the same issue. When asked how fines and fees collected by Proctor's court compared to those collected in other courts, Sipes said that Proctor's were "significantly greater."
At the start of the hearing, Austin Porter told the panel that Proctor was "being held to a standard that his white counterparts are not held to," a violation of the 14th Amendment. He complained that the hearing had become a "forum for disgruntled employees and former employees," and said that the investigator for the JDDC "had the nose of a bloodhound" in his investigation of Proctor. Porter told the panel, "If Mr. [Lance] Womack had been asked to investigate white judges, he would have found similar disgruntled employees."
Porter said that in reviewing past case brought before the Commission, "we could not find one instance where a white judge has been hauled before this commission on such insubstantial charges."
THE AFTERNOON REPORT:
The panel considering Proctor’s qualifications to remain a circuit court judge concluded a week of testimony this afternoon, after hearing Proctor claim that at least two earlier witnesses have lied.
Proctor vehemently denied that he had ever compared himself to God and called a statement made by Alice Abson, one of his probation officers, that he had “a flat out lie.”
“That was the dirtiest and nastiest thing that’s been said,” Proctor told the panel. “That hurt.”
Proctor said a former employee, Sally Porter, also lied when she testified that she had helped the judge install a listening device on a phone in his home. “It never happened,” Proctor said. “I never taped a telephone conversation and listened to it later in my office. It’s lie.”
He also said two other employees have lied or distorted the truth. Proctor told the panel that he had stopped the controversial practice of placing probationers on what he called “civil probation.” Speaking directly to the panel he explained hat he had never tried to do anything underhanded and that prosecutors, defense attorneys and county officials had been aware of everything he was doing. “I figured it’s all out there,” Proctor said. “If what we’re doing is wrong, we’re going to get stopped.”
Lawyers on both sides have until May 22 to submit briefs to the panel. After the panel has reviewed those briefs it will submit its recommendation to the full commission.