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Judge suspended after wrongly trying to help acquaintances

(AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court has suspended a judge for 30 days without pay after a professional group found he violated standards of conduct by improperly helping one person charged with prostitution and trying to help another charged with marijuana possession.

In the ruling Thursday, justices also publicly reprimanded the judge, Frank Sutton of Hinds County Justice Court.

Court papers show the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance found “clear and convincing evidence that Judge Sutton’s conduct constituted misconduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as … the Mississippi Constitution.”

The commission found that Sutton asked an investigator in 2018 to “help him out” because Sutton knew the family of a woman who was charged with prostitution. The investigator refused, and Sutton remanded the charge to files, which means it has not been prosecuted.

Sutton is also pastor of Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church. The commission found that in June 2018, he improperly asked a Hinds County sheriff’s investigator whether marijuana charge against by a church member’s son was a misdemeanor or a felony. It was a felony.

“The record is silent as to what Judge Sutton did with this information,” the Supreme Court ruling said.

Sutton did not immediately respond Thursday to a message that The Associated Press left at his office to seek comment. The Supreme Court wrote that Sutton represented himself and did not file an answer to Commission on Judicial Performance’s complaint against him.

In Mississippi, justice courts handle small claims civil cases involving amounts of $3,500 or less, misdemeanor criminal cases and traffic offenses that occur outside a city. They can also handle bond hearings and preliminary hearings in felony criminal cases and may issue search warrants.

Mississippi justice court judges are not required to be lawyers. The state bar directory does not list any licensed attorney named Frank Sutton.