Sunday, February 1, 2009

Crusading Fla. judge to get public reprimand

A crusading St. Lucie County judge will get a public reprimand for publicly criticizing his colleagues and suing them along with other officials in a bid to stop jail overcrowding.

Those actions by County Judge Clifford Barnes violated judicial canons requiring judges to act in an impartial manner and follow proper channels to report judicial misconduct, the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The justices also found he violated a canon against publicly criticizing other judges by filing the lawsuit and writing a newspaper guest column blaming jail overcrowding on problems in the local criminal justice system and other judges' pretrial release policies.

"The strident and harsh manner of attack embraced by Judge Barnes combined with his choice of a public forum to attack particular judges and their practices clearly separates this case from legitimate attempts to improve the law," the justices wrote in an unsigned unanimous opinion.

They ordered Barnes to pay unspecified costs for his disciplinary proceedings and appear before the Supreme Court to receive his scolding on a date to be set later.

The judge's lawyer did not immediately return a telephone message seeing comment.

The justices noted Barnes did not dispute the penalty recommended by a hearing panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. The panel acknowledged he was acting primarily with good motives but concluded he still should be disciplined.

(Source : The Associated Press)

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