Effectively, Mike Maggio’s suspension from the Circuit Court judicial bench with pay through the end of the year was the harshest sanction available to the judicial oversight commission that imposed it.
The sanctions, which suspend Maggio from any authority over his court and terminate his judgeship at the end of the year, were agreed-upon by Maggio and the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, according to the JDDC’s findings released on Wednesday.
Inappropriate and hateful online comments by Maggio, posting to a LSU fan forum as “geauxjudge” included ample information to identify the user as Maggio, to the point that “your statements on line (sic) were not anonymous,” JDDC Executive Director David Sachar wrote in his comments to Maggio. “… What you actually did was use a pseudonym and identify yourself through context while broadcasting to the public the comments that would ultimately bring you to discipline.”
Maggio was also disciplined for attempting to misuse the hot check process to seek an immediate warrant to arrest his then-girlfriend’s ex-husband, whose child support check had bounced.
The JDDC does not have state Constitutional authority to suspend without pay or “fire” a judge. A judge cannot unwillingly be stripped of their authority without due process. In this case, had Maggio not agreed with the sanctions and had instead decided to proceed to a trial before the JDDC, even “the most aggressive litigation schedule and estimated appeal time” would have the result of Maggio staying on the bench until the end of his term, Sachar’s comments point out.
This litigation would have been guided by the Rules of Procedure of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, which provides the following “timeline” of proceedings:
• Once charged with violations of the Arkansas Code of Judicial Conduct, the accused judge has 30 days to respond.
• Upon receipt of the response, the JDDC has 90 days to schedule a hearing unless good cause is shown to extend the time.
• The proceeding would involve a possibly lengthy discovery phase in accordance with the normal Rules of Civil Procedure on discovery.
• The JDDC would then have 60 days to file its report, record, findings and recommendations to the state Supreme Court.
• The state Supreme Court may then order additional findings or oral arguments as it sees fit before reaching its conclusion.
During this litigation process, Maggio would, by state law, have continued to receive pay and would still have been technically eligible to exercise authority over his court or act as a special judge — which he is prohibited from doing with the suspension.