A coalition of left-leaning activists is reportedly pushing for authorities to formally censure Memphis Criminal Court Judge Jim Lammey after he published a Facebook post they considered inflammatory.
As The Tennessee Star reported, people unloaded a torrent of anger after Lammey shared an article from someone the mainstream media later identified as a Holocaust denier. Lammey said, however, he did not know that about the author at the time. In his role as a judge, Lammey also makes illegal immigrants register with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
In Tennessee, there is a process to censure a judge.
“The Administrative Office of the Courts cannot censure judges. Judges are censored by the Board of Judicial Conduct, which was created by the legislature to investigate, and, when warranted, act on complaints about a judge,” said Barbara Peck, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.
“The Board of Judicial Conduct normally does not confirm or deny whether a complaint has been filed against a judge. However, according to Judge Dee Gay, who serves as chair of the BJC, because Judge Lammey’s conduct is a matter of public record at this point, he can confirm that an investigation is under way.”
Peck went on to say there is no set time line for how this will all play out because there is an extensive investigatory process.
“The BJC has multiple options available, ranging from dismissal of the complaint to private reprimands and censures to public reprimands and censures to suspension,” Peck said.
“The BJC can recommend that a judge is removed from office, but only the legislature can remove a judge.”
According to the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct’s website, people in the state who believe a judge violated the Code of Judicial Conduct may file a confidential complaint with that agency.
As the board’s website goes on to say:
• A disciplinary counsel then reviews the complaint and sends it to a three-member investigative panel to determine whether to investigate further. If the complaint does not include facts that show grounds for judicial misconduct then the investigative panel will dismiss the complaint.
• If, however, the complaint contains information about a judge that sets out facts that indicate judicial misconduct then the disciplinary counsel will conduct a preliminary investigation. If evidence exists that support the allegations then the investigative panel may authorize a full investigation, in which case the judge must respond in writing.
• Once the full investigation is completed, the investigative panel may dismiss the case; recommend a disciplinary action, such as a private or public reprimand or censure, a deferred discipline agreement with the judge (waiting to see if the judge corrects the behavior or fulfills certain requirements placed on the judge); refer the case to another agency such as the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation; or file formal, public charges against the judge.
• If the panel directs the disciplinary counsel to file formal charges, a public trial may be held in front of a hearing panel, which consists of six other members of the Board of Judicial Conduct who were not on the investigative panel. It is only when formal charges are filed that the matter becomes public.
Lammey told The Star Wednesday he can’t predict whether this proposed formal censure will happen.
“I’ve been humiliated across the country based upon something that is not true. The original story on me was a hit piece, obviously. The part that has me angriest is that by implication I am a holocaust denier and I have it in for all immigrants. That is the part that has me angry,” Lammey said.
“These people wrote their article and made me look like some kind of demon. I know I’m not. How do you get your reputation back when someone has done that to you? It seems like they did it with the intent to destroy me.”
According to The Memphis Commercial Appeal the following groups are among only some calling for censure: the NAACP Memphis Branch, Memphis Islamic Center and Jewish Community Partners.
Lammey told The Star last week his job obligates him to enforce existing law, and doing so has angered many people.
Lammey also said the Facebook posts have nothing to do with his ability to show fairness and objectivity in court.