Bar meets to discuss Hosemann, keeps vote a secret

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2002

[01/11/02]Warren County Bar Association members met Thursday to discuss one of their own, but revealed only one vote.

“The bar voted to make all proceedings confidential,” Ken Rector, president of the attorney group, said in declining to say what, if anything, occurred during the meeting. “I think it is appropriate because all proceedings of the judicial performance commission are confidential.”

Attorney General Mike Moore has asked the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance for speedy action on whether Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann, facing a felony aggravated assault charge, should continue hearing cases while the criminal case against him is unresolved.

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Hosemann, 49 and a 16-year judge who administers, civil, criminal and youth court matters, was arrested Dec. 28 and jailed one night. He faces indictment in an attack on Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 47, a former court reporter, who was found semi-conscious on his Hinds County property Dec. 6. Johnston spent three weeks in intensive care in ParkView Regional Medical Center before being transferred to Jackson at year’s end. She remains hospitalized there receiving treatment for severe bruising and other trauma that may leave her unable to walk.

Rector sent out notices to bar members calling the meeting for 5:30 p.m. Thursday. While judges and attorneys must be members of the state bar association to practice, membership in the local bar is optional for lawyers and honorary for judges. It was not known how many of the approximately 100 lawyers in Vicksburg attended. Also, as a member, Hosemann may have attended.

Moore has said Mississippi has no law requiring an official facing charges to resign or take a leave of absence. Hosemann has proclaimed his innocence and his attorney released results of a lie-detector test he said clears him in the beating. Hosemann said he will defer for 30 days on hearing criminal cases, but has continued to preside in civil and youth court matters.

Absent a removal law, Moore has asked the state commission that handles complaints about judges to investigate and, perhaps, recommend the Supreme Court take action.

Rector said Moore’s comments prompted his action. “The purpose of this meeting was to discuss the situation in regard to the request that (Hosemann) step down by the attorney general. We wanted to talk about that as a group,” Rector said.

He said the bar association could take a number of actions, but that their “authority is advisory only. We don’t have any authority to take action of our own. We can only state our opinion,” Rector said.