We now have an answer, thanks to Stuart DuBose, who was a circuit judge serving Clarke, Choctaw, and Washington counties in southwest Alabama.
DuBose was removed from office on a range of judicial misconduct charges that began before he took the bench. Witnesses said DuBose had a history of abusing painkillers and other prescription drugs. And he is in the Baldwin County jail on a federal charge of possessing as many as 30 guns in violation of a restraining order. The judge was arrested after firing a machine gun at a surveying crew near his home in Jackson, Alabama. No one was injured in the incident.
Now here is what's really interesting about the charges against DuBose. He was alleged to have manipulated a multimillion-dollar estate for his own benefit and promised local attorneys a "home-field advantage" over out-of-town lawyers in his courtroom.
In my own experience at the courthouse in Shelby County, Alabama, I don't have firsthand knowledge of any manipulated estate deals--although I wouldn't be surprised if stuff like that happens in courthouses all over the country.
J. Michael Joiner, the presiding judge of Shelby County and a grossly corrupt Republican, is a skilled practitioner of the "home cooking" arts, and I've seen that first hand. G. Dan Reeves and Ron Jackson are other Shelby County attorneys who provide "home-field advantage" for certain attorneys, even those like Swatek who have an almost 30-year history of unethical behavior.
An Alabama citizen who has a complaint against a judge starts with the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC). Almost all complaints go to that august body to die quietly, without any inquiry at all. I've filed complaints against three judges, all involving the "home cooking" noted above, and the JIC sent me form letters that essentially told me to get lost. Only the truly grotesque cases, like the one involving DuBose, go to the Court of the Judiciary for possible discipline.
A judge has to try real hard--or have significant mental disease, as DuBose evidently does--to get in trouble in Alabama. My guess is that DuBose would have been perfectly fine if he had limited his transgressions to stealing from estates and favoring certain attorneys over others. Those offenses primarily involve cheating parties that come before him, and the JIC has absolutely no problem with that.
It was the drugs and guns that got DuBose booted from office. The JIC added those other charges as window dressing, evidently in an effort to make the public think they take stuff like that seriously.
Actually, the JIC has been unusually busy lately. Guess that shows you how bad judicial behavior in Alabama has become. Pickens County District Judge Ira Colvin was removed from office before he pleaded guilty in 2007 to methamphetamine possession. Mobile County Circuit Judge Herman Thomas resigned in October before he faced charges of taking cases away from other judges without their permission and helping his cousin manipulate a jail sentence.
By the way, DuBose is identified in news reports as a Democrat--although, with his apparent love for guns, he doesn't sound like any Democrat I know.
Still, the DuBose story should be a cautionary tale for Barack Obama and any other Democrats in positions of authority heading into what we all must hope is a new era in government for our country. Democrats should make honest government one of their top priorities, and whenever corrupt public officials surface (of either party), Democrats need to be leading the push to get rid of them.
Bush Republicans have lost all grasp of the concept of honest government--if, in fact, they ever had such a grasp in the first place. It will be up to Democrats to restore a sense of integrity to our public affairs.