Friday, May 12, 2017

Mississippi Supremes Belt Empty-Headed Judge w/ $5,400 In Sanctions For Improperly Putting Thumb On Scales Of Justice In Favor Of Property Owner In Landlord-Tenant Dispute; Screwed-Over Renter: My Paycheck Was Garnished, I Lost My Car & Had To File Bankruptcy Due To Judge's Actions

In Jackson, Mississippi, The Associated Press reports:
  • A Mississippi judge must pay $5,400 for improperly intervening in a landlord-tenant dispute by encouraging the property owner to seek the maximum penalty and evict a woman whose rent check bounced.

    The Mississippi Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Montgomery County Justice Court Judge Keith Stokes Roberts and ordered him to pay a $3,000 fine and $2,400 in court costs. The justices said he effectively lawyered from the bench and didn't give the tenant a chance to fight his decision.

    They said Roberts improperly intervened in landlord Rebecca Herring's lawsuit, which accused Marci Gastineau of bouncing a $450 rent check, by advising her to increase the amount she sought from $546.50 to $3,564. Roberts then granted that larger judgment, and after suggesting that Herring seek an eviction order, granted that as well.

    Gastineau said her paycheck was garnished, she lost her car and had to file for bankruptcy because of the judge's actions.

    The case reached the state's highest court after an investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance, which received an anonymous tip.

    The justices' 5-4 decision last week does not indicate that Gastineau will get any of the money.

    "Clear and convincing evidence exists that Judge Roberts gave Herring legal advice," Associate Justice Leslie King wrote. "Several witnesses, including Judge Roberts himself, indicated that he strongly and inappropriately suggested that Herring amend her complaint up to the jurisdictional monetary limit, although the record indicates that no proof of damages in that amount was presented."
Source: Judge Must Pay $5,400 for Helping Owner Evict Tenant (A north Mississippi judge must pay $5,400 in fines and court costs for improperly intervening in a landlord-tenant dispute).

For the court ruling, see Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance v. Roberts, No. 2016-JP-00927-SCT (Miss. April 20, 2017).

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