On Tuesday, January 3, 2023, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that District Court Judge Don Bourne’s retirement will be effective after the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission received more complaints against him and requested to reinstate a 75-day portion of his remaining suspension.
The charges cited Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 2.5, and 2.8 which state:
A judge shall comply with the law, including the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct.
A judge shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.
A judge should perform the duties of the judicial office, including administrative duties, without bias or prejudice.
(a) the judge shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, and shall not permit court staff, court officials, or others subject to the judge’s direction and control to do so.
A judge shall perform judicial and administrative duties, competently and diligently.
(B) A judge shall be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, court staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.
The Code of Judicial Conduct can be found here.
Initial Complaints accused the respondent of making derogatory comments to the defendants. According to a letter of ensure, the judge had a pattern of injudicious conduct towards defendants.
When the retirement news was released, the Commission was investigating complaints Judge Don received since he returned to the bench after some 15 days of unpaid suspension last year. According to Mr. David Sachar, Executive Director of the Commission, some of the complaints were reported to them just after the return of Judge Don to the Court.
Sachar said in an emailed statement that:
“The public should be treated with dignity, patience, and courtesy when they appear in front of a judge. This increases the public’s confidence in the justice system. Proper judicial demeanor is not an afterthought – it is a necessary quality for a judge to fulfill their oath to the people of the State of Arkansas.”
In the Letter of Censure and Recommendation of Suspension Without Pay to the Arkansas Supreme Court, it was stated that if during the year from the issuance of the said letter, the respondent violates any of the terms, the JDDC can Petition the SC to impose remaining suspension. Moreover, the Executive Director can open a new Complaint and seek additional and more serious sanctions.
The Arkansas Supreme Court suspended the respondent and barred him from holding judicial office after the expiration of his term in 2024. However, before this happened, the Judge already announced his retirement. As a result, all complaints against him will be dismissed.
Source: Arkansas Democrat-GazetteFull story here.