Legal Ethics

Former youth court judge disciplined but can't be kept from being re-elected to bench

The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld a Judicial Performance Commission’s recommendation that a youth-court judge be removed from the bench and fined, but the high court said neither it nor the commission can prevent her from being elected to the bench in the future, the Associated Press reports.

Former Tate County family master and youth court judge Leigh Ann Darby violated judicial canons after ordering the arrests of three 15-year-olds accused of walking through a woman’s yard, the Associated Press reported. She ordered them to be tested for drugs and had them locked up for three days at a youth detention center, where they were strip-searched. They had no prior arrests and later were found not guilty of trespassing.

Darby was suspended for 60 days and resigned in November 2011. The judicial commission brought its complaint against her in 2013 and later filed its recommendation with the state supreme court.

Darby was the subject of another disciplinary action (PDF) for abusing her contempt powers. In 2010, she ordered a woman jailed, without due process, for not taking her 15-year-old daughter for outpatient mental health care at a facility under the Mississippi Children’s Health Program.

The woman had taken the girl to the facility to have her admitted, but was told they would put her in a 15-day outpatient program. The woman said she could not afford the 67-mile daily round-trip and left with her daughter. After the facility informed the judge, the woman was jailed.

For that, the Mississippi Supreme Court in 2011 upheld a recommendation to publicly reprimand Darby and have her pay a $500 fine plus $100 in costs.

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