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Judge gets more time to fight efforts to remove him from office

law_webTUPELO — A Lee County justice court judge has until Nov. 17 to argue to the Mississippi Supreme Court why he should not be removed from office for transgressions outlined in a complaint filed by a judicial watchdog group.

The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance recommended in September that Judge Rickey Thompson be removed from office and pay more than $11,000 in fines and costs.

The Mississippi Supreme Court yesterday rescheduled the deadline for Thompson’s attorney to file in the case.

In its complaint, the Commission on Judicial Performance cited Thompson for several instances of misconduct.

Among them was that in June 2013, a licensed bail bond agent was inside the courtroom near the bench. When a defendant was fined or sentenced, the bondsman would approach the bench, take the case file from Thompson, then take the defendant and file outside of the courtroom. When the bondsman was later suspended from writing bonds at the Lee County-Tupelo Adult Jail, Thompson approached the sheriff asking that the suspension be lifted. The commission ruled that Thompson lent the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others.

A drug court participant retained Janelle Lowrey as her attorney in June 2012. When Lowrey attempted to represent her client in court, the commission reported, Thompson refused to allow her to speak and threatened to hold the attorney in contempt. Thompson only recognized a volunteer public defender. The commission alleged Thompson denied the defendant her right to the counsel of her choosing.

Thompson was accused of keeping several participants in the drug court program past the two-year limit allowed by state law as well as jailing participants for unspecified violations or failure to comply with drug court.

Thompson was publicly reprimanded in 2008 and 2012. He also was fined $2,000 and suspended for a month in the 2012 case.

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