In an unusual order today, the Supreme Court of Alabama dismissed a petition for mandamus filed in Mobile County because it was moot, but also took the opportunity to remind Circuit Court Judge James (Jim) Patterson of his duty to adhere to the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
Last August, Attorney W. Perry Hall filed the petition, urging the court to vacate an order Patterson wrote requiring him to apologize to his clients in a Mobile subdivision who filed a lawsuit against the developer of the subdivision. Six days after the order was filed, the individual homeowners were dismissed from the action by joint stipulation and Hall’s petition became moot, the Supreme Court noted.
However, “although we do not review whether the Circuit Court exceeded its discretion by entering the order, we emphasize that a judge is expected to maintain ‘the decorum and temperance befitting his office,’ and should be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers and others with whom he deals with in his official capacity.”
The order further said adherence to the Canons of Judicial Ethics ensure “public confidence in the integrity and independence of judges” and have “the force and effect of law.”
“We expect the circuit court to faithfully comply with the Canons at all times in its interaction with the litigants and attorneys who appear before it,” the order concluded.
It’s not the first time Patterson has drawn the ire of higher courts and others in the legal community. In 2018, he was nearly held in contempt after he used a criminal case to argue for greater court funding. The Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court stepped in, determining he “went far beyond [his] authority” and “violated the separation-of-powers doctrine” by undermining the legislature’s role in funding Alabama’s court system.
Last year, he took to Facebook to apologize for using the term “Engrish” in front of a group of potential jurors, some of whom were Asian Americans. In two separate orders earlier this year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Patterson illegally detained a murder suspect when he revoked the defendant’s bail without sufficient cause and in another case, he was ordered to reinstate a guilty plea he tossed out without authority in a public corruption case.
Just last week, it was reported Patterson apologized to Gov. Kay Ivey after referring to her as “Governor MeMaw.” Patterson was elected in 2016 to fill the seat of retiring Judge Charlie Graddick. Neither Hall nor Patterson immediately responded to requests to comment for this article.
SCA Briargrove mandamus
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