Friday, August 27, 2010

The Tyrant Judge of Jackson, Mississippi

The Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports on the petty tyrant Hinds County (Jackson, Mississippi) Judge Houston Patton and the proposed slap on the wrist for his pattern of judicial misconduct. This is from reporter Jimmie E. Gates' Clarion Ledger story:

"Hinds County Judge Houston Patton (small pic, left--the only one I could find) doesn't dispute that he jailed two people for contempt in civil disputes. Nor does he deny that in one of those instances he discussed the case outside the courtroom and wrongfully issued a search warrant.

'I'm in the middle of my re-election campaign, and that is where my concentration is and that's all I need to say,'  Patton said Wednesday when reached by phone. The state's judicial watchdog group concluded Patton denied these individuals' due process rights and is recommending that the 74-year-old be publicly reprimanded and fined $1,000.  The recommendation from the state Commission on Judicial Performance comes as Patton, a county judge since 1990, also is fighting a federal lawsuit.

The state Supreme Court will determine what, if any, punishment Patton will receive. One of the cases that led to the commission's recommendation involves the jailing of a Jackson city councilman's brother in a civil case. Homer Tillman said Wednesday it came as a big surprise to him when he was arrested.

Patton issued a final judgment of $44,300.82 on March 31, 2009, against Tillman in a case brought by former Jackson Fire Chief Vernon Hughes and his wife, Constance, for problems with Tillman's work as a housing contractor.  On April 7, the couple filed to have Tillman held in contempt of court for failing to pay the judgment . . . and without notification, [Judge] Patton held Tillman in contempt, ordered his arrest [and jailed him.]

'He knew better than that,' Tillman said of Patton's actions. [ . . .]

Two other cases cited by the commission involve Billy Ralph Sullivan, a former Terry-area resident.

On Jan. 7, 2007, Joseph and Debra Gregory filed a complaint in Hinds County Court against Sullivan and his company, A & S Environmental, alleging Sullivan owed the them $21,875 for lease payments on a Daewoo track-hoe, attorney fees and other costs.  Sullivan filed his intention to dispute the allegation, but [Judge] Patton [ex parte] discussed [ . . . the matter] with the Gregorys, [then] entered orders [holding] Sullivan in contempt, the commission found. John Woodward and Vivian Wajda filed a[nother] complaint against Sullivan over a land easement and failure to complete a pond levee. The couple alleged they suffered lost income. The commission said [Judge] Patton wrongly held [Mr.] Sullivan in contempt, resulting in his incarceration in that case as well. The commission also concluded Patton wrongfully had a search warrant issued for Sullivan's son premises.

Sullivan couldn't be reached Wednesday.

The federal lawsuit against Patton stems from a 1997 incident in which Patton accused The federal lawsuit against Patton stems from a 1997 incident in which Patton accused James Jennings Jr. of Mendenhall and Jennings' attorney, J. Keith Shelton, of attempting to bribe him. Jennings and Shelton were indicted, but the charges later were dismissed.  The lawsuit accuses Patton of knowingly making false claims to authorities.
Patton has two opponents in the November general election."
Election of judges?  Good idea? 

The unspoken story of this Judge is about all the other cases not part of the judicial complaints where his temperament cost, time, money or liberty when justice and the rule of law indicated otherwise. 

I looked at Judge Patton's official biography at the Hinds County website.  Clearly this was a good and worthy lawyer.  At some point, Judge Patton's ego ran ahead of temperament, ethics, and judgment.  When this happened, he cost his constituents the rule of law, it's time for Judge Patton to retire--it's a shame his ego won't let him hear this message. 

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