Legal Ethics

Suspended and facing ethics case, judge blames president jurist, claims she rebuffed advances

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An Alabama judge facing a legal ethics case over the unlawful arrest orders she is accused of entering against parties and witnesses in divorce cases is now blaming the jurisdiction’s former top jurist for her plight.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Dorothea Batiste denies in court filings that she abused her contempt powers and contends that the county’s then-presiding judge, Scott Vowell made a complaint against her to the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission, based on what she describes as sexual, racial and political motives, the Birmingham News reports.

“The AJIC has allowed itself to become a tool or agent of a manipulative, even Machiavellian, Scott Vowell, who has misued the AJIC, or abused its process, to cleverly manipulate the AJIC complaint process to punish petitioner Batiste for rejecting Vowell’s sexual advances,” says Batiste in a recent motion to the state supreme court that seeks to derail case.

She also contends in the motion that she is being treated differently than other judges, alleging that other domestic relations courts “have used, or abused the contempt power to punish unruly litigants” at least as often as she has.

In a written statement provided to the newspaper on Monday, Vowell said he can’t comment in detail under legal ethics rules but “yet I am confident that the outcome here will be the dismissal of these baseless charges, after they’re found to be absolutely false.” He stepped down from the bench earlier this year, at age 75, due to mandatory retirement rules, the Birmingham News reported in January.

Another Birmingham News article published last month provides additional details about the legal ethics case and links to a copy of the complaint (PDF).

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