Whites Quit Working With Black Mississippi Judge, Then He Got Sacked

FROM:  The Daily Beast
By: Justin Glawe

Rickey Thompson started a drug court to start treating offenders and stop imprisoning them. Then he says officials quit sending him offenders altogether.
A black judge in Mississippi claims he was removed from office following years of resistance from a mostly white legal system to his push to treat drug offenders instead of imprisoning them.

Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson of Lee County—named for Confederate general Robert E. Lee—is the first and only black judge in the county’s 149-year history. In May, the Mississippi Supreme Court removed him from the post that he’s held since 2004 over a slew of misconduct allegations.
“It came to the point where they couldn’t beat me at the ballot, so they had to find another direction,” he said. 

Thompson said the sheriff quit sending him suspects and fellow judges quit sending the accused to his drug court. Warrants he signed for the sheriff’s department went un-served. A bailiff even once refused to open his court. 

Officially, Thompson was found by Mississippi’s highest court to have violated several rules, including what amounts to making clerical errors like using the wrong form when filing paperwork. That should not be surprising given Mississippi requires only a high school diploma to be a justice court judge. (Thompson, a registered nurse with an associate degree, has more education than that of his fellow justice court magistrates.) 

Thompson’s crimes include speaking up for a bail bondsman who had been previously suspended from operating by the sheriff; preventing a drug court defendant from choosing her own attorney over one he advocated for; keeping some people in drug court longer than the two years allowed by state law; wrongly incarcerating four people.

The last charge is the most important: When a handful of offenders violated the drug court’s rules, Thompson found them in contempt of court and sent them to jail. The longest sentence was six months. 

If Thompson hadn’t created his drug court in the first place, the four people he locked up for contempt would have almost surely been in prison longer than they would have been for their drug offenses. That means Thompson was kicked off the bench, in part, for not locking up drug offenders for longer than he did.

The judge was popular with blacks in the county, and he kept quite a few of them out of jail for minor offenses like marijuana possession. The sheriff evidently wanted to see them in his jail or prison.

“When I first started, obviously there was a learning curve, but you see some of the bad things that are going on,” Thompson said. “And as people got to know me and know that I was going to be fair, that I wasn’t going to be a rubber stamp, that’s when the trouble started.”

A complaint filed in federal court last week by Thompson’s attorney Jim Waide details what they say happened next.

In 2009, Thompson had seen enough people getting locked up for petty drug offenses and, after much negotiation and arm-twisting, convinced the county to start what would become his drug court. Thompson’s complaint alleges fellow judges—all white—began to refuse to send suspects—mostly black—to the drug court once it was running. 

The resistance didn’t stop there.

When Thompson found a black misdemeanor suspect not guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, Sheriff Jim Johnson took revenge, Thompson claims.  Mississippi sheriffs decide which judges get which suspects. So when Thompson acquitted the black defendant, Sheriff Johnson simply quit bringing suspects to Thompson’s courtroom.

Johnson’s deputies refused to serve warrants issued by Thompson, he said. When Thompson held a contempt hearing for a white deputy, he said other deputies appeared in court to intimidate him. A bailiff once even refused to open Thompson’s court (the traditional “all rise”) while eight inmates sat in the courtroom without supervision, according to a letter from a counselor submitted as evidence in Thompson’s complaint.

In November 2013, the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance opened an investigation of Thompson’s alleged misdeeds and last summer recommended he be removed from the bench. The state’s supreme court agreed and removed him in May.

According to his attorney, the crimes for which Thompson was found guilty amount to offenses that are regularly committed by white judges who are not removed from office. The court said there was no evidence of racial bias.

So Thompson has sued in federal court the Mississippi attorney general, the local Democratic Party, and the county’s election commission to be reinstated and allowed to run for office.

Not content with waiting for the courts, Thompson ran for reelection and beat five competitors with 55 percent of the vote in the primary this month. It’s unknown whether Thompson will be allowed to run in the general election, though. Local Democrats and the county election commission cite a state statute that bars public officials who have been removed from office from running again. Thompson’s attorney says that is not in the state constitution. 

After 11 years on the bench and three reelections, Thompson now has to fight the system he was once part of.

NOTE:  We here in America (and I don’t mean to castigate the U.S. because other countries around the world have the same sort of trouble, including our buddies in Western Europe – are still stymied by the whole race thing.  And this, even after we elected a Black man President of the United States.  Twice. 

And I think it’s appropriate that race is and remains a BIG ISSUE.  That is, if you believe that America is or at least can be different from those other countries that have similar problems.  Our problem is that, until recently, (let’s say until the invasion of Iraq) the U.S.A. pretty much served as the world’s bell weather for equality, liberty and justice for all for the world community.   You see, until recently, we here in the United States of America thought ourselves as different.  Thought that we among the nations of the world we had gotten it right with our devotion to “all men are created equal and are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  But apparently not in Mississippi.  If you are a Black judge.

Forget for a moment, that when these glowing sentiments were penned, slavery was still legal in the U. S. of A. (Black men were considered property and merited only 3/5’s of humanity as codified in the U.S. Constitution for the national census and women couldn’t vote because they were women.  Setting those anomalies aside – as we are wont to do when we extol the virtues of the American Way of Life - our continued struggles with race (Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, Baltimore, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Flint Michigan, etc. etc.) – keeps on raising its ugly head and biting us in the ass.  No matter what anyone’s feelings are about race and race relations, no one can deny that this issue is still unresolved.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 hasn’t solved the problem nor has ignoring the problem as we collectively did for the past couple of decades or so.  Police killings of unarmed Black kids and men couldn’t be covered up in this age of IPhone videos, Facebook and You Tube.  One could also cite the plight of the Native American as an even more glaring void in the American system of equality and justice but then we have the problem that we basically slaughtered Native Americans and shunted them off to concentration/indoctrination camps for those who were left. Out of sight - out of mind. Unfortunately, there is an insufficient number of Native Americans to remind us of how lacking America is in equality of treatment and justice for all. Fortunately Black men, women and children make up about 12% or our population, which seems to be a sufficient number to keep on reminding us of our remission viz our vaunted ideals.  Native Americans are about 2% of the U.S. population which might explain why they don’t even register on our scale of racial injustice. 

The race issue is not going to go away.  Ignoring it only drives it deeper into the American psyche only to explode with more force when suddenly unleashed upon our social serenity. 

The fates of Rickey Thompson, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Dontre Hamilton, Eric Garner, Tony Robinson, Tanisha Anderson et. al. eloquently illustrate the continuing distance we must journey before we become the nation that our founding documents envisioned in words if not in actions.  It is a worthy goal and one we should forever aspire to until we achieve it no matter how difficult, no matter how idealistic, no matter how long it may take.  Race matters.  And don't kid yourself - it's not just in Mississippi!

Seems to me that Rickey Thompson is one of the good guys, as those things roll out in America. today  And as an aside, then, do you have some explanation - other than race - for the treatment of Rickey Thompson's in Mississippi?  No, I thought not. 

Have A Good Day!


Popular posts from this blog