Court demands panel’s decision on Hosemann

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 26, 2002

[07/26/02]The state Supreme Court said Thursday it wants to know by today exactly where the state judicial watchdog panel’s complaint against Judge Gerald Hosemann stands.

Separately, Chief Justice Ed Pittman refused to step down from hearing Hosemann’s case.

The judge of Warren County Court and Youth Court since 1986, Hosemann, 50, remains suspended by the Supreme Court though a criminal case against him has been resolved.

Pending with the Supreme Court is a July 12 request by Hosemann to get back his job, his third since his criminal case was resolved May 23. With that request Hosemann filed a copy of the July 9 order with which the state Commission on Judicial Performance dismissed its formal complaint against him.

In that order the commission, on whose recommendation the court acts, specifically reserved the right to reopen the case.

Thursday’s 5-2 Supreme Court order requests that the commission do essentially two things by noon today. One is to file with the court copies of the commission’s dismissal order and any other relevant orders. The other is to respond in writing, as it did to each of Hosemann’s two previous requests to get his job back, to his most recent, July 12, request.

It appears to the court that although the commission, which meets privately, has dismissed the formal complaint and an amended formal complaint, “it still has under consideration the facts and activities underlying these complaints,” the order says.

The court order also said that while the commission’s dismissal order notes the misdemeanor charge that was issued against Hosemann after the felony indictment pending against him in Hinds County Circuit Court was dropped May 23, no record of how that charge was resolved was then before the Supreme Court.

In the separate Supreme Court order filed Thursday, Pittman denied Hosemann’s request that the chief justice remove himself, or be removed by the court, from hearing Hosemann’s July 18 petition to be reinstated.

Hosemann’s request accused Pittman of bias against him, noting that it took only a day for the court to vote to remove the Warren County judge, but nothing had happened since his motion was filed July 12.

In addition to the delay, Hosemann cited a Jan. 3 letter from Pittman to the state’s circuit, chancery and county judges as evidence of bias. The letter was about comments Pittman had received on his efforts to implement some reforms, including time standards for deciding cases.

A paragraph of the letter referred to “a county judge released on bond for aggravated assault.” Hosemann was the only county judge then facing a criminal charge, and said that showed Pittman couldn’t be trusted to be impartial.

“Having considered the motion, it has been found to be without merit,” Pittman wrote, adding that his Jan. 3 letter does not imply that he “prejudged (Hosemann’s) guilt or the validity of the charges.”

Pittman has served in state elective offices since 1964, and has been chief justice of the nine-member court by virtue of seniority since 2001.

Hosemann was arraigned on the indictment April 22. He was accused of beating and leaving on his Hinds County land former court reporter Juanita “Nita” Johnston, 48. He has maintained his innocence throughout.

Missing since Dec. 4, Johnston 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 the indictment that was dismissed after Hosemann pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

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.