November 2022 Millar’s JurisDiction - Lottery Winners and Losers

by Richard W. Millar, Jr.

Robert Ludlum was a prolific writer, but few of his protagonists tapped into the public’s imagination as did Jason Bourne. The spy with considerable talents who lost his memory and was being chased by the people who created him proved irresistible, and was the basis for several movies and numerous sequels written by Mr. Ludlum’s successors, Eric Van Lustbader and, more recently, Brian Freeman. Even Treadstone has been the subject of two novels and a television series. I have seen all the movies and read most, if not all, of the sequels.

Which is why I “borrowed” this title.

The truth is I could not resist it, even though this column has nothing whatsoever to do with Mr. Ludlum, or any of the books and movies, or even anything about Jason Bourne.

But bear with me, Your Honor, I will connect it up momentarily.

Instead, it has to do with a judge in, of all places, Pope County, Arkansas.

His name is Bourne and he was sanctioned.

On August 1, 2022, the Judicial Discipline & Disability Commission wrote Judge Don Bourne a “Letter of Censure and Recommendation of Suspension Without Pay.” It accused him of “injudicious conduct toward defendants.”

One category, if you will, of reported comments related to defendants who were not from Pope County, evidencing, I suppose, what would be called “geographical bias”:

“You should have stayed in south Arkansas;”
“I wish you would stay in California;”
“I wish you would have stayed in Illinois;”
“I get a lot of troublemakers from California;”
“You should have stayed in Chicago;” and
“You should have stayed in California.”

At least California beat Illinois 3 to 2. We need to win at something these days.

He told Spanish-speaking defendants that they should learn English if they were going to be in his jurisdiction, and said to one: “If you were a good employee, you wouldn’t have been laid off. Go get a job and get that crap out of your eyebrows.”

Apparently, he worked upwards from eyebrows and also commented on hair styles although, unfortunately for my purposes, no quotes are available.

The letter also charged him with failing to follow the law in appointing counsel and conducting proper indigency proceedings. “Affidavits of indigency were submitted by defendants for years and rarely was one approved.” Also, the affidavits were not kept as part of the public record and were destroyed.

In misdemeanor cases with the possibility of jail time, Judge Bourne was charged with telling those defendants seeking appointments that they would “‘probably not’ qualify” even though he had not reviewed their affidavits. His typical response, according to the charges was, “I am not going to appoint a lawyer for you. Get a job.”

Judge Bourne did not contest the panel’s charges and accepted its recommended sanction. The Commission then filed a Petition for Expedited Consideration with the Arkansas Supreme Court, which ruled on August 9th granting the Petition and imposing suspension without pay for ninety days, with seventy-five days held in abeyance for one year if he completes certain agreed-to remedial measures, which are interesting in and of themselves and include: spending two weeks observing other judges and writing “reflective reports” for each visit; obtaining a digital-audio recorder for his courtroom and allowing the Commission to monitor his courtroom; ordering that he shall never again hold judicial office after his current term expires; and attending classes and training in ethics and bullying.

The suspension is to begin on August 16th.
This is one Bourne sanction that most likely will not be coming to a theater near you.

Richard W. Millar, Jr. is Of Counsel with the firm of FSG Lawyers PC in Irvine. He can be reached at rmillar@fsglawyers.com.