Hosemann accuses chief justice of bias against him

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002

[07/19/02]Judge Gerald Hosemann, who remains suspended by the Supreme Court though a complaint against him by the state’s judicial watchdog panel has been dismissed, filed a motion and sworn statement Thursday accusing the state’s chief justice of bias against him.

In the court papers, Hosemann, who has been judge of Warren County Court and Youth Court for 16 years, asks that Chief Justice Ed Pittman remove himself or be removed by the rest of the court from considering Hosemann’s petition to be reinstated.

Pending for a week today before the Supreme Court is a Hosemann request to get his job back, his third since a criminal case against him was resolved May 23.

“My attorney and the media have on numerous occasions requested from the court information on when my motion would be granted, or heard by the court,” Hosemann, 50, wrote in a sworn statement supporting the motion filed by his attorney, Bill Kirksey. “At the present time there has been no indication when this matter will come to a conclusion, and I verily believe that politics is prevailing over the rule of law, questioning the Chief Justice’s impartiality.”

Beverly Pettigrew Kraft, Administrative Office of Courts public information officer, said Thursday she could not speculate on when the court might rule on either Hosemann’s reinstatement request or the new motion for Pittman to step aside.

Hosemann notes it took only a day for the court to vote to remove him, but nothing has happened on his motion filed July 12.

In addition to the delay, Hosemann cites a Jan. 3 letter from Pittman to the state’s circuit, chancery and county judges as evidence of bias.

Pittman wrote the letter as an explanation of his efforts to implement some reforms, including time standards for deciding cases. In the letter to judges, Pittman wrote that he did not apologize for “calling for a rededication to timely decisions, honesty, and integrity” in the state’s judiciary.

In the paragraph Hosemann cited, Pittman wrote, “Today we have one chancellor under indictment, a county judge released on bond for aggravated assault, two chancellors resigned rather than face indictment for filing false expense requests. I know that we can do better.”

Since Hosemann was the only county judge facing a criminal charge, his motion says, that shows Pittman can’t be trusted to be impartial.

Before his case was resolved by a plea of no contest to disturbing the peace, Hosemann was accused of beating and leaving on his Hinds County land former court reporter Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48. Johnston, missing since Dec. 4, was found injured there Dec. 6 and spent more than a month in hospitals in Vicksburg and Jackson. After identifying Hosemann as her attacker to Hinds authorities who filed a sworn affidavit that led to Hosemann’s Dec. 28 arrest, Johnston said in March that she loved Hosemann and the charges should be dismissed because he did not and could not have injured her.

Hinds authorities nonetheless sought and obtained a grand jury indictment that was later dismissed.

That dismissal, however, did not resolve the pending complaint with the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance, which had recommended Hosemann’s suspension with pay after he was indicted.

The court accepted that recommendation and, on April 29, appointed Special Judge Sam Habeeb, 33, to hear Hosemann’s case. On June 27, Habeeb’s appointment was extended until Sept. 1 unless otherwise ordered by the court, and he remains on the bench.

On July 9, the commission, which meets privately, withdrew its complaint against Hosemann, saying that since it was based on an assault indictment that had been dropped, the inquiry should be dropped, too. Commission members, however, reserved the right to reopen the case.

Pittman is a veteran state official, having served in elective offices since 1964. He has been chief justice of the nine-member court by virtue of seniority since January 2001.

After investiture, he formed a series of study committees to investigate possible changes in court operations, saying the courts needed to work on being more accountable and trustworthy.

Hosemann’s elective term expires Dec. 31. He is a candidate for re-election and has four challengers in the general election set for Nov. 5.