The state Supreme Court declined to intervene in judicial disciplinary case accusing Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman of unethical behavior during an appeal court race three years ago.
In a Nov. 10 per curiam, the Supreme Court ruled it did not have the authority to step in and correct a ruling in a judicial disciplinary proceeding unless the Judiciary Commission recommended discipline.
The Judiciary Commission is a judicial oversight branch of the Supreme Court. It has the authority to investigate judges’ misconduct.
“No recommendation of discipline has been filed in this case,” stated the Supreme Court’s order.
The Judiciary Commission has charged Marchman with violating the Supreme Court’s ethics code for judges in 2018 when she endorsed then-President Donald Trump by describing herself as a “Trump Republican.” At the time, Marchman was a candidate for the Second Circuit court of Appeal with now-Second Circuit Judge Jimbo Stephens, of Baskin. She lost the election.
The Judiciary Commission also charged Marchman for referring to Stephens as an independent like the self-proclaimed socialist U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Marchman took a writ to the Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn a ruling by retired Judge John Campbell, of Minden. Campbell is presiding over Marchman’s disciplinary case.
Previously, Campbell granted a motion by the Judiciary Commission’s Office of Special Counsel to quash subpoenas Marchman issued to set depositions and gain witness testimony ahead of defending herself in a hearing.
Marchman issued 12 subpoenas to Stephens, Fourth Judicial District Court Judges Stephens Winters, Scott Leehy and Wilson Rambo as well as retired judges Ben Jones and Carl Sharp. In addition, she subpoenaed attorneys Jon Guice, Bill Boles Jr., Brian Crawford and Christian Creed. She also subpoenaed Stephens’ political consultant Eric Mahaffey and The (Monroe) News-Star reporter Bonnie Bolden.
According to Marchman’s writ to the Supreme Court last week, Campbell—the hearing officer presiding over the case against Marchman—ruled that the witnesses subpoenaed had no connection to the charges at hand.
Campbell found there was no reason for Marchman to subpoena Winters, Rambo, Leehy, Sharp, Jones, Crawford, Guice, Boles, and Creed.
“The Order issued by the Hearing Officer prohibiting Judge Marchman from conducting discovery from the designated witnesses will cause her irreparable harm as it prevents her from adequately presenting a defense to the charges made against her,” stated Marchman’s Oct. 5 writ. “It erroneously assumes the testimony sought is irrelevant before the witnesses have even provided any testimony.”
In a Nov. 10 dissent from the Supreme Court per curiam, Justices Jefferson Hughes and Scott Crichton argued the Supreme Court had the authority to intervene in a Judiciary Commission proceeding. However, Crichton wrote, Marchman’s subpoenas were “immaterial” and “irrelevant,” as ruled by Campbell.
“Implicit in the majority’s ruling in this matter is that respondent is entitled to no relief under the circumstances presented to the Court at this time, a decision with which I agree,” stated Crichton’s dissent. “The information respondent seeks to elicit is immaterial, irrelevant, and in any event, the probative value is outweighed by a waste of administrative time and resources.”
Crichton argued a judge, like a criminal defendant, had due process rights that included the right to make a defense.
“Again, while I agree that the merits of this respondent’s application should be denied, I decline to adopt any intimation by the Court that we are without the authority to act otherwise,” stated Crichton’s dissent. “Finally, although I ultimately agree the hearing officer correctly ruled in this matter, respondent may still make an offer of proof for the record.”
Supreme Court Justice Jay McCallum, whose judicial district includes Ouachita Parish, recused himself from the case.