by Max Brantley
The State Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission today announced disciplinary actions against two judges for unethical behavior.
* CIRCUIT JUDGE GERALD KENT CROW of Berryville was reprimanded and censured. In a drug and a DWI case the judge mounted his own investigation of some facts of the cases, though neither the state nor defense had requested it. He also was found to have retaliated against Public Defender Beau Allen, attorney in one of the cases, for filing a complaint against the judge with the Judicial Commission.
The censure, a more serious punishment, was for the retaliation against Allen.The commission's order said Crow got consideration for admitting to ethical missteps. He was directed to review his docket for possible conflicts with others, refrain from issuing orders in which his employees or families are parties, not have ex parte communications, not step outside the ordinany judicial role and "endeavor to cooperate with other prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys to the extent that you can, while maintaining decorum and dignity in your courtroom." He also was instructed to refrain from threatening lawyers with turning them into the Committee on Professional Conduct.
* DISTRICT JUDGE ROBERT BATTON of Jacksonville was reprimanded for a heated exchange with a frequent court defendant who became obstreperous. Batton accused the defendant, who is black, of being a racist toward white people. When the man left Batton's courtroom, the judge remarked: "There goes another angry black man." Batton said he knew the statements weren't right or proper but he expressed a "desire to vindicate to those in the court that he is not prejudiced against blacks." He was reprimanded as an appropriate sanction because of his "willingness to accept that your actions were in violation of the code and your commitment to be more aware of the issues listed above in the future....."