Do judges need a stinkin' badge? | Arkansas Blog

Do judges need a stinkin' badge?

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The Log Cabin Democrat has a story up on Circuit Judge Mike Maggio's display of some sort of badge when stopped for speeding by an Arkansas state trooper earlier this summer. Maggio said he was late for court and the trooper noticed a badge (unofficial it would appear from the story) during the stop. The trooper, Brian Johnson, sent Maggio along with a warning.

I'd been tipped on this, too. I received a video of the arrest after a Freedom of Information request. I tried to call Maggio Friday, but he was unreachable. The State Police, naturally, say they have no policy providing leniency for people claiming they are speeding en route to court work. They do, however, say troopers have discretion in giving speeding tickets. I gather there may have been several stops along this stretch of roadway in which motorists were issued warnings, not just Maggio.

Judges are not supposed to use their offices to gain advantage, under ethical codes, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are prohibited from identifying themselves as judges in such a situation, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission says. A lot would depend on how Maggio used the badge that day. Questions remain about why a judge has a badge and readily displays it to police — except to gain advantage. Other judges in the 20th Circuit apparently don't carry badges. The administrative office of the courts has issued judges a photo ID card that identifies the person as a judge.

Clearly, somebody is watching Maggio closely, thus the tip on this traffic stop.That's also why some of his other involvements with the justice system he helps oversee have come to light.

Last year, the Democrat-Gazette reported that the state had filed $3,200 in tax liens against him. It was somewhat relevant because Maggio presides over 20th Judicial District hot check cases. The Democrat-Gazette also reported that he’d settled in 2006 a two-year federal tax lien of $34,233 and in 2008 settled a $9,115 state income tax lien.

July 23, a notice was filed in Faulkner Circuit Court that Maggio and his wife were in default on the mortgage on a home on Savannah Park Circle in Conway. According to county records, a $557,000 mortgage was recorded on the property in 2006. The notice of public sale to satisfy the debt did not say how much was still owed. A spokesman in the circuit clerk’s office said Friday, however, that a notice cancelling the sale had been filed. The law firm handling the action said it could not comment about the matter or how it had been resolved.

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