Hearing Thursday on Hosemann case

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 30, 2002

[1/30/02]A closed hearing Thursday will lead to a recommendation to the state Supreme Court that Warren County Judge Gerald Hosemann be removed or not from hearing cases until a felony criminal charge against him is resolved.

Thursday’s hearing will be before the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance. The date for Thursday’s hearing became public after Hosemann’s attorney appealed a decision by that commission. The decision denied the judge’s request to call 15 witnesses and take depositions before the session, known as a show-cause hearing.

In an order issued Tuesday, six members of the Supreme Court agree:

The Thursday hearing should continue, limited to the single issue of whether the existence of the criminal charge should result in a temporary removal of Hosemann from the Warren County bench; and to

Delay any full or formal removal hearing until after the criminal charge is prosecuted, dropped or otherwise resolved.

In a separate order, also issued Monday, four members of the Supreme Court:

Deny the request by Hosemann attorney William Kirksey to make Supreme Court proceedings related to the matter secret.

Hosemann was arrested Dec. 28 in Hinds County and faces an aggravated assault charge in the Dec. 6 beating of his former court reporter, Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 47, with whom court documents say he was in a sexual relationship. She remained hospitalized more than a month.

The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance is the administrative agency that polices state judges. By state law, its hearings and proceedings are secret.

The appeal to the Supreme Court says a three-member panel will address Thursday the issue of temporary removal of Hosemann without considering his guilt or innocence of the criminal charge. Commission director Luther “Brant” Brantley said results of that hearing will be forwarded to the full commission for a vote on Feb. 8. If two-thirds agree that Hosemann should be suspended, that vote will be submitted to the Supreme Court. Only the Supreme Court’s action will be made public.

Since being charged, Hosemann has said he is innocent, revealed a private lie detector test he says clears him and has continued to hear non-disputed youth court and civil cases. He has removed himself from criminal cases for 30 days and disputed youth court matters.

A Hinds County grand jury meeting this week will apparently not consider an indictment in the case because Sheriff Malcolm McMillin said his department has not completed its file.

A formal complaint was filed by state Attorney General Mike Moore about a month ago, asking the judicial commission to temporarily suspend Hosemann.

Records show Hosemann’s response included a request that the commission hear deposed testimony of 15 witnesses.

“Hosemann seeks a full-scale evidentiary hearing on the facts and circumstances surrounding the criminal charges which are the underlying basis for the commission’s formal complaint,” wrote Brantley, responding to Hosemann’s emergency petition. “The purpose of the show-cause hearing is not to try the facts of the case; the sole issue is whether a judge charged with a felony should be suspended, with pay, pending the final determination of the criminal charges and the commission proceeding.”

After filing the appeal of the commission’s refusal to expand the hearing, Kirksey followed up by asking the justices to keep their answer secret. The justices agreed the Constitution requires the court’s actions be taken in public.