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Panel recommends suspension without pay for Judge Robin Carroll

by Matthew Hutcheson | September 30, 2022 at 5:00 a.m.

Judge Robin Carroll should be suspended without pay for 60 days, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission said in a report released Thursday.

The 18-page report that includes the recommendation for suspension alleges several separate cases of ethical misconduct by Carroll.

Carroll has served as a Circuit Court Judge in the 13th Judicial District, which covers Union, Calhoun, Cleveland, Columbia, Dallas and Ouachita counties, since 2013. It is an elected position.

The report states that the JDDC analyzed "court records and dockets, court transcripts and audio, witness statements, information from jail records, investigation information from law enforcement agencies, texts, and phone records" as part of its investigation and accuses Carroll of "a disregard for legal procedures, failure to uphold the integrity of the judiciary, and behavior that undermined public confidence in the office of Circuit Court Judge."

The report, which is credited to JDDC executive director David Sachar, goes on to state that Carroll chose to fully accept the recommendation of suspension without pay rather than contest the findings in a formal disciplinary hearing; this acceptance, Sachar says in the report, means the allegations in the report are "now deemed proven."

Bias, influencing attempts

Misconduct allegations listed in the report include a pattern of bias against a deputy sheriff in an unnamed county.

According to the report, Carroll recommended the sheriff of the unnamed county fire the deputy and spoke with others about his opinion of and background with the deputy, who he told the sheriff he had previously known.

The report also states that Carroll "coerced" -- including in open court -- dismissals of cases that relied on testimony and work by the unnamed deputy sheriff and did not recuse himself from cases involving the deputy until January 2022.

Carroll is also accused in the report of attempting to influence some cases involving the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC).

Carroll, according to the report, called an unnamed District Court judge and spoke in detail about a case involving an AGFC officer; the other judge ultimately removed himself from the case.

Carroll also contacted and spoke with several court and AGFC officials regarding two separate AGFC cases, something the report later calls an attempt to "inject beneficial information into cases" not assigned to him.

"Clear proof" that Carroll's "improper meddling" had affected the rulings in any case would have put him "in jeopardy of removal from office," according to the JDDC report.

"As is, removal was discussed, and your cooperation, admission of guilt, mitigation, and acceptance of the remedial measures caused the Investigation Panel to recommend a suspension without pay," the report states.

The report also cites docket mismanagement as a reason for Judge Carroll's suspension, highlighting failures to "routinely make clear docket entries" and to call the full docket on the record. He also cancelled court "numerous times without appropriate prior notice to litigants, attorneys, witnesses, or law enforcement employees who had prepared for and travelled to court," according to the commission.

This section also highlights incidences when Carroll cancelled court or failed to call the cases of inmates transported by Sheriff's Office personnel from outside counties and housed in local jails for court. Counties, as the report points out, are responsible for financing the transportation and housing of inmates.

The report concludes that Carroll did not benefit monetarily "or otherwise" from the cited cases but did have a "negative effect on the integrity of, and the respect for, the judiciary."

Sanctions

A section of the report on mitigation and correction states that Carroll "admitted mistakes, accepted sanctions and cooperated with the JDDC staff to reach the resolution of these complaints" and notes personal difficulties Carroll has encountered recently including family deaths and health issues.

Judge Carroll's father, Dr. Pete Carroll, passed away last October.

The total JDDC recommendation is 90 days suspension without pay, with 30 days held in abeyance -- postponed -- on conditions including warnings against retaliation or "false or misleading comments" related to the investigation.

Carroll will also be subject to JDDC courtroom monitoring as well as attendance monitoring; will be required to take an online class by the National Judicial College on judicial ethics and docket management; and required to "refrain from habits that caused some of the issues mentioned in this letter."

The report's conclusion also cites mitigation measures taken by Carroll including voluntarily giving up one of his criminal dockets and his voluntary resignation as Chairman of the Legislative Committee of the Judicial Counsel to devote "full" attention to his trial judge duties.

According to the JDDC, suspension without pay results from misconduct requiring "more than a censure but less than removal."

The Suspension Without Pay recommendation must now be reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Judge Carroll directed a request for comment on Thursday to his attorney, Gene Bramblett; Bramblett could not be reached for comment by press time Thursday.

Print Headline: Panel recommends suspension without pay for Judge Robin Carroll

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