by Max Brantley
The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has affirmed the recommendation of a three-member panel that Circuit Judge Willard Proctor of Little Rock should be removed from the bench for ethical lapses, most connected to handling of probation cases. The Commission met in private for more than an hour before announcing the decision.
The vote on the nine-member commission to remove him was unanimous. Only two commissioners were in the office. The others participated by conference call. Proctor and his attorney were not present.
The Commission's decision will be reviewed by the state Supreme Court. There had been some speculation that the commission, in filing its recommendation for removal, would ask the Supreme Court to suspend Proctor from his duties while the final decision is pending. Commission Director David Stewart said, however, that the commission would simply follow the process and file its findings with the court without asking for suspension. That likely means a final decision won't come sooner than September. The Supreme Court will go on summer recess at the end of this month.
Reports this week indicate that Proctor has been continuing his practice of keeping people who've completed probation under the thumb of his Cycle Breakers probation program. This way, they keep paying fees to the non-profit organization he founded. No one has yet found a justification in law for the practice.
Proctor's flouting of procedure merits speedy action, particularly given the gravity of his offenses as now ratified by a nine-member panel.
Stewart was asked if judges often resigned after findings such as this and he said they often did. But he said it wasn't his place to ask for a judge's resignation. The commission will just report its recommendation to the court.
Here's the Commission's four-page order. It's a straightforward recitation of clear factual acts. It is shorn of some complimentary language about Proctor included in the three-member panel's recommendation that he be removed.
-- Gerard Matthews
PS -- Credit is due to Mara Leveritt for her ground-breaking articles on Proctor for the Times that helped drive events that led to the judicial investigation. His strange activities stirred little interest among other media, save the official proceedings./