The Proctor case | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Proctor case

Posted By on Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 9:00 AM

The investigation against Circuit Judge Willard Proctor got broad coverage from TV and newspapers, deservedly.

But there's a problem. He's still on the bench. He's still using an out-of-control private probation operation, directed by him. He's likely still sending people to jail who've committed no crime -- all without statutory or constitutional authority. Think about that again: Jail terms for people who failed to pay dubious financial obligations to a private entity a judge controls. If it's not a crime, it should be. If it's not a violation of these people's rights, it would surprise me.

Action is needed NOW. Not in a year or so when the disciplinary process finally reaches the inevitable conclusion that Proctor should be removed from the bench.

At a minimum, there's no longer a justification for the state Supreme Court to keep under seal Proctor's legal action attempting to quash the investigation by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

If you thought yesterday's reading was hair-raising, wait until you see the evidence proffered to the court in behalf of a suspension of Proctor from handling criminal cases while the disciplinary proceeding continued.

Since the investigation is now out in the open, the Supreme Court should open the file.

To quote the Arkansas and U.S. Supreme Court:

The public has a "compelling interest" in open judicial proceedings -- Arkansas Best Corp., 317 Ark. at 247

"One of the basic principles of a democracy is the people have a right to know what is done in their courts."  -- Ark. Dept. of Human Services v. Hardy, 316 Ark. 119, 871 S.W.2d 352 (1994)

"...when public court business is conducted in private, it becomes impossible to expose corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, prejudice and favoritism. For this reason, traditional Anglo-American jurisprudence distrusts secrecy in judicial proceedings and favors a policy of maximum public access to proceedings and records of judicial tribunals." -- Shepherd v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333 (196)

The court perhaps -- and rightly -- is embarrassed that it had an earlier opportunity to put a stop to Proctor's extralegal operation but failed to do so.



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