Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Judge Mike Maggio withdraws from Court of Appeals race; acknowledges web postings

Posted By on Wed, Mar 5, 2014 at 7:49 PM

click to enlarge DROPS RACE: Judge Mike Maggio
  • DROPS RACE: Judge Mike Maggio
In an e-mail, Circuit Judge Mike Maggio has announced his withdrawal from the Arkansas Court of Appeals race because of  reporting on his injudicious comments on Tiger Droppings, an LSU fan website. He acknowledged the comments and, while saying he took "full responsibility," he nonetheless invoked the "politics of personal destruction" in his downfall.

It's more accurate to say the tools of Maggio's destruction were his own hands at a computer keyboard.

Maggio made dozens, perhaps hundreds, of comments on the website under the pseudonym "geauxjudge." They included remarks derogatory to women, blacks, gays and Arkansans, but they also included his disclosure of a confidential judicial matter in Faulkner County, actress Charlize Theron's adoption of a child in 2012. It remains unclear if the adoption was in Maggio's court or that of Circuit Judge David Clark. It's generally understood that judges may confer among themselves about legal issues, but adoptions are supposed to be strictly confidential as far as public disclosure is concerned.

Maggio's statement:

I take full responsibility for the comments that have been attributed to me. I apologize deeply for my lapse in personal judgment and for that, I have no excuse. The comments posted were not acceptable. These comments are not a reflection of who I am.

During my life, I have prided myself in treating all fairly and with respect, both personally and professionally. My friends, family and colleagues know me and can appropriately attest to how I have treated others. I stand by their opinion and regret letting them down. I ask for both yours and God’s forgiveness. My actions are not indicative or illustrative of the conservative political philosophy of which I hold dear.

It is a shame that the politics of personal destruction take precedence along with the win at all costs mentality that results in the disjunction.

At this time, in light of the pain I have caused to my family, friends, supporters, the Judicial Branch, and the public, I have requested that the Secretary of State remove me from the ballot.

I would ask you to respect my family’s need for privacy so we can being the healing process of forgiveness. 

The story unfolded rapidly beginning Monday, though as I indicated to Arkansas Blog readers Sunday, a story with tabloid implications was developing and I knew it concerned Maggio. Word was traveling of Maggio's postings — off-color and biting —on the LSU website. His personal references made his identification clear. He referred to his native Mississippi, where he went to school, his judgeship, cases in his court and the Theron adoption (he said he'd like to be her "baby daddy.") Raunchy talk, not directly linked to a judge's name, is a less serious ethical problem for a judge than disclosure of confidential matters. But it would have been an enormous political problem.

Matt Campbell of Blue Hog Report put it all together Monday and I followed quickly with news from the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that it already had an investigation in process. Until today, Maggio had not commented except for a terse no-comment Tuesday and the claim he knew of no pending disciplinary investigation, despite my having reported it here Monday. David Sachar, executive director of the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, subsequently said that if Maggio had not yet received official notice, he soon would.

Silence today was interpreted two ways: 1) that Maggio was heeding the encouragement of some to tough it out or 2) Maggio was conferring with Judicial Discipline about bringing the matter to a close, first by removing himself from the current race. It is not uncommon when valid complaints are pending at the agency to reach agreed settlements. The Commission has the ability to remove a judge from the bench. Sachar said he would have no comment today.  Some form of discipline is a foregone conclusion. The major questions concern his continuation on the bench for the remainder of this year and whether he'd be eligible to run for the bench again in the future. Ultimately, the issue will be up to a panel of the commission, not Sachar, so the final outcome could be weeks away.

Maggio had to forgo seeking re-election to his circuit court seat, which pays around $140,000, to run for the Arkansas Court of Appeals. He's been a judge since 2001. He was unopposed for the state's intermediate appellate court until Friday, when Bart Virden of Morrilton, a district court judge, announced his candidacy. He'll be unopposed now. Filing closed Monday. Virden was likely aware of Maggio's growing troubles when he filed, though they had not been made public then. He has avoided commenting on them.

I wrote about the race this week.

My column isn't online yet, but here's a copy.
Maggio and his partner, Dawn Rivers, have declined to respond to past efforts to contact them. The e-mailed statement was provided to media by Clint Reed, who'd been working as Maggio's campaign consultant until Tuesday. He ended his association with the campaign yesterday. He gave no reason, but it was taken as an acknowledgment that Maggio was responsible for the web comments and that they damaged him as a candidate too severely to be represented. Maggio also failed  to issue a denial of the comments, circumstantial evidence that they were his. Reed was among those who received the note tonight and he said he distributed it as a "courtesy" to media who might not have received it. Maggio did not send it directly to me.

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