Hosemann, panelaccounts oppositeon dismissed cases

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 27, 2002

In an 11-page brief to the state Supreme Court, departing Judge Gerald Hosemann says trials were scheduled for the 16 defendants for whom he dismissed charges, not merely first appearances, as the judicial performance commission alleges.

Both Hosemann, judge for Warren County Court, and the commission had until Thursday to file briefs on the commission’s request that Hosemann be suspended, even though he is scheduled to leave office Tuesday.

The Supreme Court made no announcement on when it might rule.

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Hosemann’s brief, filed Monday by attorney William Kirksey of Jackson, denies the commission’s finding that no trials were set for the Dec. 10 court session in which Hosemann announced sweeping dismissals for all present.

“This was a trial date, not an arraignment date, as there are no arraignment days’ in County Court of Warren County dealing with DUIs,” the brief says.

Warren County Prosecutor Johnny Price, elected in November to replace Hosemann, has said his absence from court to attend a mandatory training session was documented for Hosemann’s court in advance and that the dismissals were, in essence, Hosemann’s personal revenge.

Price, who has filed papers to try to get the charges reinstated, is to take office after the first of the year. A transcript of the hearing provided by Hosemann shows him noting the absence of the prosecutor or a representative and starting a chain of dismissals, coming as a surprise to attorneys and clients alike.

The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, acting on a citizen complaint, agreed with Price that the defendants were in court to have trial dates set, not for actual trials, and that factor alone made the dismissals improper.

Hosemann’s brief says the opposite. “Had the prosecutor appeared and the defendants had not, (Hosemann) would have entered bench warrants for their arrest and revoked their bonds,” his brief said.

The commission, which had its petition for immediate removal of Hosemann denied last week, agreed Hosemann “had been given notice of the prosecutor’s conflict with” the Dec. 10 date. Hosemann, however, says in his Monday brief that he saw only the order and not Price’s request for it.

If granted, the suspension would be Hosemann’s second. His first lasted for three months beginning April 24, two days after he was arraigned on a Hinds County felony indictment accusing him of aggravated assault by inflicting injuries for which his former court reporter was treated for more than a month. That indictment was dismissed a month later after Juanita Johnston said he was not her assailant, and he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace.

The commission’s executive director, Brant Brantley, has said that if the Supreme Court were to sanction Hosemann after he leaves office, it would not be the first time that had happened. The penalty for the most severe of the options available to the court in such cases, removal, would bar a judge from returning to judicial office, he said.

Hosemann was first elected in 1986 and has served four full terms in the judgeship that includes Warren County Youth Court. He finished last in the five-candidate field on Nov. 5 with less than 10 percent of the county’s vote.