High court rejects Martin reprimand

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 16, 2005

The state Supreme Court Thursday rejected a Judicial PerformanceCommission recommendation for a public reprimand and 30-daysuspension for Lincoln County Justice Court Judge Judy Martin.

The commission made the recommendation in March afterdetermining Martin committed judicial misconduct in 2003 inordering a man arrested and denying him bail on two separateoccasions. In a 17-page ruling handed down Thursday, however, theSupreme Court said Martin made a mistake, but it did not warrantsanctions.

“Our review of this case does not support the commission’srecommendation to publicly reprimand and suspend Judge Martin fromoffice for 30 days without pay,” said Justice Mike Randolph,writing for the court. “A simple mistake in the face of reasonableefforts to base decisions on controlling law is notsanctionable.”

Martin believed she had the authority to deny bail, a privilegereserved for circuit and county courts, Randolph said. He saidthere was no proof that Martin “exhibited bad faith or grossunconcern” in exercising her duties.

When contacted this morning, Martin said she was unaware of thecourt’s ruling. She had no comment on the specific ruling.

“I try to be fair and do my job as close to the law as I can,”said Martin, who is in her second term as justice court judge.

Thursday’s court ruling details a series of arrests in thesummer of 2003 involving a man accused of telephone harassment ofhis estranged wife. Also included in the allegations were stalkingand trespassing.

In two of the instances, the commission determined Martin hadviolated the judicial code of conduct in having the man arrestedand denying bond. The court said, however, Martin’s errors were notcommitted “intentionally, with gross unconcern, or generally in badfaith.”