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Archive for the ‘Judge Badgett’ Category

A lot of observers in the legal community didn’t expect a ruling from the N.C. Supreme Court on the Judicial Standards Commissions’ recommendation to censure local District Court Judge Mark Badgett until after election day.

But not only did a ruling come in before voters were to decide on sending Badgett back to the bench for a second term, it was about as harsh a decision as the court could have issued. Not only is Badgett removed from the bench, he’s ineligible to seek future judicial office in the state and can’t draw retirement benefits form his three years presiding over district court. You can read the court’s full ruling here.

Some excerpts to illustrate the tone and breadth of the ruling.

“Respondent’s untruthful, deceptive, and inconsistent statements to North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Wilson and his attempts to influence the recollections of Deputy Clerk Marion and Attorney Talbert constitute willful misconduct. Respondent was not under any compulsion to speak or make a formal statement to Special Agent Wilson. However, instead of merely relating the truth and letting the chips fall where they may, respondent willfully attempted to cover up his misdeeds from the Carreon hearing.This behavior is entirely unacceptable for a lawyer or a judge.

 

“Additionally, respondent made false statements from the bench to District Attorney C. Ricky Bowman in an effort to have Mr. Bowman sign a remittal of disqualification. Respondent also created a hostile work environment for members of the district attorney’s staff, complaining that they were a ‘burr in his side.'”

 

“Moreover, respondent was habitually rude and condescending to those appearing before him in the courtroom. Id. Respondent’s conduct throughout his tenure as a district court judge has been fraught with disrespect for the parties appearing before him, a persistent failure to be truthful, and a disregard for the laws and ethical rules that govern the judiciary.”

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An open letter to the Honorable Sarah Parker, chief justice, North Carolina Supreme Court.

Dear Justice Parker:

The people of Surry and Stokes counties need your help. Now. 

Without immediate action by you we will continue to have inflicted upon us a quality of justice that not only is an embarrassment to the local legal community, but raises doubts among all concerned that the standard of fairness that those coming into the courtroom deserve will indeed be upheld.

The issue is the continued assignment of District Court Judge Mark Badgett to preside over civil court in Surry County and both civil and criminal courts in Stokes County.

As you are well aware, Judge Badgett was suspended for two months by decision of your court after, among other things, having been found to have lied under oath to the Judicial Standards Commission. Why this simply merited a suspension and not outright removal, disbarment and an indictment for perjury remains a mystery.

During his suspension Judge Badgett was everything but contrite, stating that the actions of both the Judicial Standards Commission and the Supreme Court were unwarranted. He used his free time to campaign for re-election.

And during his suspension the Judicial Standards Commission, acting upon a separate complaint, handed down yet another recommendation for censure, finding, among other things, that he had lied again, and that his judicial temperament displayed ethnic bias.

Despite this recommendation, he was returned to the bench when his suspension expired. Consequently, he can continue to administer his form of perverse jurisprudence until your court acts again, which apparently would come no sooner than your September term.

Unless that is, you were to advise your appointee, Chief District Judge Chuck Neaves, that it would be in the best interests of the district — and justice — that Judge Badgett not preside over any court until yours has the opportunity to rule on the Judicial Standards Commission’s latest findings. That would simply be akin to remanding a repeat offender pending trial.

Apparently at this time you are the last resort for the people of District 17B. You have it in your power to restore the moral, ethical and legal respect necessary for our local court system.

We humbly ask that you use it.

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Barring something happening quickly, Surry County will be in the unenviable position next week of having a known liar presiding over a courtroom in Dobson.

The two-month suspension of District Court Judge Mark Badgett expires Tuesday. At that point he can be reassigned to hold criminal, civil or juvenile courts in Surry and Stokes counties.

And that would be a travesty.

To briefly recap: Badgett was suspended by the state’s Supreme Court after it found that a recommendation of censure by the Judicial Standards Commission wasn’t sufficient punishment for a litany of offenses. Among its findings were that Badgett had engaged in “willful misconduct and persistent failure to perform his duties,” and that his testimony before the Judicial Standards Commission “was not credible,” and “especially troubling because [Badgett] was under oath and sworn to tell the truth.”

Badgett displayed not the merest scintilla of chagrin at his punishment, vowing to use his time off to campaign for re-election.

A week ago the Judicial Standards Commission, acting upon yet another complaint, again recommended a further censure of Badgett. This time it said his actions were “prejudicial to the administration of justice, which brings the judicial office into disrepute.”

And the commission said Badgett lied yet again, making “untruthful, deceptive and inconsistent statements” during the investigation that constitute “willful misconduct in office.”

And still the judge is vowing to soldier on, even proclaiming that he tries “to stand up for law and order.”

Someone needs to put a stop to this immediately. The state Supreme Court should rule before the suspension expires that he be removed from the bench. Or the N.C. State Bar should disbar him, making him ineligible to serve as a judge.

And if neither of those bodies acts in time, there is one final resort. Chief District Court Judge Chuck Neaves could simply decide not to assign Badgett to any court until the Supreme Court rules. Judge Neaves has no reason to put Badgett back into his judicial robes, and a multitude of reasons not to. Think of the message it sends when a liar presides over a court of law.

If it comes down to his call, Judge Neaves’ obligation should be to the people of Surry and Stokes counties, not to a rogue judge.

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Given the depth and breadth of Judge Mark Badgett’s official misconduct, the astounding thing is not that the N.C. Supreme Court suspended him for two months, but that it didn’t choose to remove him entirely.

This is a man who violated the absolute most basic trust the people must have in their judges.

He lied.

Under oath.

To the Judicial Standards Commission of the state of North Carolina.

The list of Badgett’s transgressions is far longer than that alone, including several equally as serious. The commission and then the Supreme Court found overwhelming evidence of a pattern of judicial misconduct and lack of judicial temperament that any rational person would conclude make him unfit to serve. That he is continuing to campaign for re-election, or that anyone would seriously consider voting for him, beggars the imagination.

Consider these words the Supreme Court chose to use to refer to Badgett in its ruling: “willful misconduct and persistent failure to perform his duties,” adding that “willful misconduct in office denotes ‘improper and wrong conduct of a judge acting in his official capacity done intentionally, knowingly and, generally, in bad faith. It is more than a mere error or an act of negligence.'”

The Judicial Standards Commission determined that Badgett’s testimony in its hearings “was not credible.” The Supreme Court found this “especially troubling because [Badgett] was under oath and sworn to tell the truth.”

It also was highly critical of Badgett’s actions in his courtroom, finding that in one event, “the tenor of his demands carried an air of menace.” The threats Badgett made, from the bench, directed at Surry District Attorney Ricky Bowman, were meant to get Badgett a personal favor, and arose from an inappropriate business relationship the judge had with an attorney who would appear before him.

We invite you to read the complete ruling online at http://www.aoc.state.nc.us/www/public/sc/opinions/2008/173-07-1.htm

We have to wonder why the Supreme Court’s suspension is the only legal action taken against Badgett. Lying under oath to the Judicial Standards Commission ought to bring the interest of the state attorney general’s office. It sounds like a textbook definition of felonious perjury. The N.C. State Bar also ought to be yanking Badgett’s license to practice law, which would make him ineligible to continue serving as a judge.

By far too many accounts Badgett has been a judge more concerned with maintaining his conviction rate than dispensing impartial justice. He has poisoned his relationship with the district attorney’s office, calling into question the fairness of any criminal trial before him.

He should have the decency to resign immediately, but given his megalomania that’s unlikely. If the Judicial Standards Commission, the state Supreme Court, the state attorney general or the N.C. State Bar won’t rid us of him, it will be left to the voters this November to do the right and just thing.

 

 

 

 

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