Suspended Mobile County judge resolves judicial ethics case, to return to bench Monday

Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 2:32 PM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A suspended judge has resolved a judicial ethics complaint against him and will resume his duties next week, court officials confirmed Thursday.

Mobile County Circuit Judge James Patterson has been suspended since the summer, and retired judges have been covering his docket ever since. The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission brought formal charges against him, accusing him of a variety of violations of the Cannons of Judicial Ethics. He accepted a number of sanctions, including a requirement that he pay $2,742 to pay for the cost of a court reporter used during the ethics case.

Among the allegations was that the judge referred to Gov. Kay Ivey as “Governor MeMaw,” that he used foul language in the courtroom and that he made other inappropriate remarks – both from the bench and in written orders.

Mobile County Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter confirmed that Patterson will be back on the bench on Monday.

Patterson and the Judicial Inquiry Commission jointly agreed that the ethics complaint “accurately states the facts upon which this proceeding is based” and that the commission could prove those facts “by clear and convincing evidence.” He agreed to refrain from jokes or other inappropriate comments in the courthouse.

The order signed by the judges of the Court of the Judiciary also states that the Patterson’s actions and comments did not constitute a crime, nor were they motivated by personal or monetary gain.”

The judge agreed to accept a number of penalties, including a public censure to be published in a newspaper of general circulation. He also will compete 15 hours of judicial education on judicial ethics. At least three of those hours will focus on “cultural sensitivity.” In addition, he will be ordered to read and review weekly emails from the National Center of Judicial Ethics for six months.

The judge will be required to meeting with a mentor judge, who will submit a report on Patterson every two months.

The details of the settlement are unclear. Officials from the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, which conducted a hearing in Montgomery on Thursday, could not immediately be reached for comment. And the judge’s lawyer, Reggie Copeland, declined to comment.

However, Mobile County Presiding Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter confirmed that Patterson would be back on the bench on Monday.

The formal complaint included a long list of alleged transgressions, including a verbal attack on Youngpeter, whom he allegedly referred to as an “(expletive) snowflake” in front of lawyers and staff.

In another incident alleged in the complaint, the judge effected an Asian accent when addressing a pool of potential jurors that included an Asian-American. He asked if every spoke “Engrish,” according to the complaint, which also stated that he immediately apologized and later characterized it as a “stupid, stupid joke.”

In addition to the comments, the complaint accused Patterson of abusing his authority by using a criminal case to rule on issues related to a lawsuit he had contemplated filing against the circuit court clerk to prevent her from sending locally collected fees to the state. He ordered the circuit clerk to withhold 10 percent of fees and costs collected locally until the state adequately funded the circuit clerk’s office.

The Alabama Supreme Court in 2019 ruled that Patterson had no authority to take the action that he did.

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