Court removes Judge Henson

first_img Court removes Judge Henson A judge who signed up a client before leaving the bench and then advised the client to flee the country to avoid prosecution has been removed from the bench by the Florida Supreme Court.In an October 6 order, the court removed Ninth Circuit Judge James E. Henson. Inquiry Concerning a Judge, No. 03-14 re: James E. Henson, case no. SC04-1Henson had contested the finding that he advised the client to flee made by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. But the court found the evidence sufficient to uphold the charge that the judge violated both judicial canons and Florida Bar rules.“Neither those who appear before Judge Henson nor the public at large can have confidence in a judge who has committed these flagrant violations of our ethics rules,” the court said. “We therefore remove Judge Henson from office.”According to the opinion, Henson was defeated when he ran for reelection as an Orange County judge in 2000. He cleared his judicial calendar by December 15 and had no further work, although his term did not expire until January 5, 2001. On December 20, he met with a doctor and signed an agreement to represent his daughter, who was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while driving drunk. He accepted an initial payment of the legal fee and also met with the daughter in jail on that day, and she also signed the retainer.Henson got another attorney to handle the December 22, 2000, bond hearing, but attended in the audience with the father and afterwards went to the bench and obtained papers from the presiding judge necessary to obtain bond.“Judge Henson has admitted both the foregoing facts and these facts demonstrate that he was improperly practicing law while still a judge,” the opinion said.The JQC report noted there was conflicting testimony about whether Henson advised the daughter, who was a Colombian national with a valid passport, to flee there to avoid prosecution. Henson repeatedly denied the charge, but the father, the daughter, and the attorney brought in to handle the bond hearing all testified to “facts supporting the charge” and the JQC found their testimony credible.The court rejected Henson’s claim that the JQC lacked jurisdiction to investigate his actions as a county judge because the charge was not filed until 2004, more than a year after he was elected as a circuit judge after a two-year gap from his service as a county judge. The justices said the constitutional authority on the JQC to investigate judges includes the authority to investigate for actions during past terms of service, as well as the explicit authority to investigate their actions as attorneys before becoming judges.The court agreed with the JQC that Judge Henson violated Canons 1, 2, 3, and 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules 4-1.1, 4-1.2(d), 4-1.3, 4-1.4, 4-8.4(a), 4-8.4(b), and 4-8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Conduct.“Ultimately, Judge Henson’s misconduct deprives him of the probity and moral authority necessary to perform the duties of a circuit judge. . . , ” the court concluded. “An attorney who has practiced law while still a judge and then counseled a client facing trial to avoid prosecution by fleeing the jurisdiction does not deserve, and likely will not receive, the public’s trust. Having compromised his own integrity, Judge Henson would place the integrity of our judicial system at stake were he allowed to continue in office. This we cannot allow.” November 1, 2005 Regular Newscenter_img Court removes Judge Hensonlast_img

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