On Thursday Anderson covered the latest from Lee County Chancery Court Judge Talmadge Littlejohn. The Mississippi Supreme Court suspended Judge Littlejohn thirty days without pay and imposed a public reprimand as a result of Judge Littlejohn, once again, throwing someone in jail when he should not have. Here is the Court’s opinion.
In this case, Judge Littlejohn found a litigant in contempt and ordered him incarcerated because the litigant did not comply with the judge’s order to pay $16,750 in a child support matter. The problem was that the litigant had already posted a supersedeas bond and appealed Judge Littlejohn’s order.
As far as bad rulings go, this one is a doozy. A supersedeas bond guarantees performance if the appealing party loses on appeal. It protects the winning party. Judge Littlejohn didn’t care.
From Justice Dickinson’s majority opinion:
Chancellor Littlejohn acknowledged that Brooks had posted a supersedeas bond but nevertheless held him in contempt for his failure to pay and ordered him incarcerated until he paid the entire amount of $16,750. Brooks spent three days and two nights in jail. During his incarceration, he filed an emergency appeal with this Court, and we vacated Chancellor Littlejohn’s contempt finding and ordered Brooks released.
A three justice minority felt that Judge Littlejohn’s suspension should have been with pay.
Most people would call a suspension with pay “vacation.”
Given Judge Littlejohn’s history of jailing a lawyer for not reciting the pledge of allegiance, I’ve got to agree with the majority here. For my posts on Judge Littlejohn’s pledge of allegiance fiasco, see here, here and here.
Ballotpedia defines “judicial temperment” as:
a judge’s general attitude toward the law, litigants and other judges. According to the American Bar Association, judicial temperament means that a judge exhibits “compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, sensitivity, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice.
My definition is a judge who doesn’t act like a wing-nut on the bench. Unfortunately, judicial temperament is not actually a job requirement for being a judge.
Judges have different personalities. Some are gregarious and outgoing on the bench. Others are reserved and introverted. And there are many variations in between. All these personalities work when the judge has a judicial temperament.
The vast majority of the judges in Mississippi have a good judicial temperament. Those that don’t will have their names echoing around courthouses years from now when most of us are dead. Just like the unpopular legends of years past that veteran lawyers still tell stories about during trial breaks.
Judge Littlejohn has placed himself in this category of notorious judges.