Judge on trial | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Judge on trial

Posted By on Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 4:10 PM

The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission begins a hearing Monday for Circuit Judge Willard Proctor to answer a finding that there was probable cause to believe he'd violated judicial ethics rules in operation of the nonprofit probation program, Cycle Breakers, that he started and which operates solely in his court.

We've written about the issue extensively and Mara Leveritt will cover the hearing next week.

More documents in the case became available today through an FOI request. It's in the form of commission answers to questions Proctor posed to develop his defense. It mostly amounts to detail supporting general allegations made earlier -- that Proctor held control over the Cycle Breakers program, even as he was sentencing people in his court to the program and setting fines and jailing probationers for various transgressions of his unprecdented "civil probation" program. Allegations earlier said Proctor's practices amounted to unconstitutional detention for civil wrongs.

Staff members also will testify about being directed to give him blank checks drawn on the agency and using it for improper purposes -- one mentioned pizza parties and going away gifts to attorneys.

Cycle Breakers' cash flow produced by people passing through Proctor's court is critical in meeting a debt on a building that the group purchased at Proctor's direction, but was never able to use because Carver school parents objected to location of the facility by the school.

Extensive testimony is planned, too, from participants in the Cycle Breakers program. One lived with Proctor during his probation and had, according to Commission documents, "a relationship with this defendant that was described as inappropriate by staff members." The judge sent money to the man when he was in prison. Video from a Cycle Breakers annual banquet reportedly will show the judge "sobbing uncontrollably" while telling the group that this probationer was back on the streets using drugs.

Another probationer was jailed at a hearing at which he had no attorney. Another was placed on a probationi program though Proctor had represented him as a private attorney. Still others talked of Proctor conducting "therapy" sessions at rehabilitation facilties and Bible meetings. Another was used as a personal assistant for Proctor while on "intensive probation."

Staff told investigators that Proctor kep secret files on certain probationers and granted them special access.

The hearing could stretch beyond the expected three days given just the depth of material indicated in material released today. Proctor will vigorously challenge it, as he did in a still-sealed state Supreme Court proceeding in which he tried unsuccessfully to prevent the disciplinary proceeding.

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