On Friday, May 17, 2024, the Minnesota Lawyer reported that Seventh Judicial District Judge Douglas B. Clark was publicly reprimanded by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards.

According to the report, Clark, whose chambers are located in the Wadena County Courthouse in Minnesota, was reprimanded for allegations of failure to be courteous, patient, and impartial in addition to an inability to perform his judicial duties competently and diligently.

Clark was appointed to the bench in 2018. In 2021, Clark entered into a deferred disposition agreement with the Board on Judicial Standards due to complaints about his “angry and aggressive demeanor” and issues competently fulfilling his judicial and administrative responsibilities. The agreement allowed the board to take action against Clark by October 2023 if any additional misconduct was found.

Multiple attorneys took issue with Clark’s alleged harsh demeanor, with some regularly seeking to avoid having him assigned to cases or recommending clients find a new lawyer if he was already on the case. Attorneys described Clark’s tone of voice as terse, loud, bullying, and condescending, and said he had lost his temper with both litigants and attorneys on occasions. One lawyer stated she was unsure about continuing her legal career due to her treatment by Clark, while another stopped working as a prosecutor partially due to Clark’s demeanor.

The board also found that Clark failed to competently and diligently perform duties such as timely signing release orders, meaning defendants orally ordered released during morning hearings sometimes had to wait hours for signed orders. Additionally, witnesses reported Clark appeared angry on the bench at times, yelling and screaming with a red face and crossed arms. He was also criticized for repeatedly interrupting witnesses and ignoring timelines, including by the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Based on its investigation, the board determined Clark violated the deferred disposition agreement and rules of judicial conduct through additional misconduct. Clark did not request a formal hearing and acknowledged a commitment to improve his performance.

The public reprimand represents the board’s finding that Clark is subject to discipline due to violations of judicial standards of conduct and duty. The action against Clark serves as a reminder that Minnesota judges must maintain proper demeanor, competency, and impartiality.

 

 

Source: Minnesota Lawyer