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Supreme Court to mull removing justice court judge

The Mississippi Supreme Court building in Jackson. Photo by STEPHEN McDILL / Mississippi Business Journal

Mississippi Supreme Court

TUPELO — The Mississippi Supreme Court will consider whether to remove a Lee County justice court judge from office.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance filed a document with the high court Wednesday, recommending the removal of Judge Rickey Thompson.

Thompson could not immediately be reached yesterday, and it was not immediately clear how soon the high court might consider the recommendation.

The commission said he used his office to advance private interests of others, denied a person the right to use an attorney of her choice, kept drug court participants in the program for more than two years in violation of state law, incarcerated drug court participants for long periods without due process and enrolled participants from other court systems in the drug court in violation of state law.

Commission Director Darlene Ballard said the board considered two prior instances where the Supreme Court reprimanded Thompson in 2008 and 2012. In the 2012 reprimand, the court also suspended him for 30 days without pay and ordered him to pay a $2,000 fine.

Thompson was scheduled to appear before the commission in December 2013. The hearing was delayed when he agreed to end his misdemeanor drug court operations and stop hearing Lee County cases until a decision was made.

Since January, Thompson has not presided in any case involving the Lee County Sheriff’s Department, which includes all county cases. That limited his authority mostly to disputes between individuals and speeding tickets issued by the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

The commission heard the complaint lodged against Thompson in March but did not release its findings until Wednesday. The commission’s findings have long been known by Thompson’s supporters, who held rallies in mid-February and late July to support the judge.

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