SENATOBIA — The Mississippi Supreme Court has disciplined a former youth-court judge for misconduct but says it cannot constitutionally bar Leigh Ann Darby from holding a future judicial office.
The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance is charged with investigating allegations of misconduct by judges. By law, it recommends discipline to the Supreme Court, which has final say in judicial disciplinary matters.
Darby, the Tate County family master and youth court judge in Senatobia, came under fire in July 2011 after she ordered three 15-year-olds to be given a drug test and transported to the Alcorn County Youth Detention Center in Corinth. The teens were strip-searched as provided by the jail policy when they arrived at the jail and spent three days there.
The three were arrested after police got a complaint they were walking through a woman’s yard. All three were eventually found not guilty of trespassing.
Darby was suspended for 60 days and resigned in November 2011. The judicial watchdog agency brought its complaint against Darby in May 2013 and filed its discipline recommendation in September of that year.
The Judicial Performance Commission found Darby’s actions violated canons of judicial conduct. Darby did not challenge the findings, according to court records, and agreed to the discipline recommendation of removal from office and ban on holding a future judicial office.
The commission said the teenagers had no previous arrests and were not under the jurisdiction of the Tate County Youth Court. The commission said Darby had no authority to order the drug tests or to order the teenagers sent to Alcorn County.
The commission said the teenagers did not have a lawyer and Darby did not hold a detention hearing before ordering them arrested.
The Supreme Court agreed with the allegations and adopted the punishment recommended by the commission — removal from office and fines.
Presiding Justice Mike Randolph, writing for the court, said neither the court nor the commission has authority to stop Darby from holding a judicial office in the future.