Hosemann suspended with 2 days left

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002

Departing Warren County Court Judge Gerald Hosemann was suspended Friday by the state Supreme Court for his last two days in office.

The Supreme Court’s action came nine days after it denied the state judicial monitoring panel’s request for Hosemann’s immediate removal, and the day after it had made written briefs due from both parties.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance sought to have Hosemann, 50, suspended after he dismissed on Dec. 10 charges of driving under the influence against about 15 defendants.

“Judge Hosemann is suspended with pay pending resolution of the formal complaint filed by the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance,” the court said Friday in a 6-1 order.

The commission would not likely consider its complaint again before its next regular meeting, which would take place after Hosemann’s scheduled last day of Tuesday, executive director Brant Brantley said.

Hosemann dismissed the DUI cases in the absence of Warren County Prosecutor Johnny Price, 56, who won election as County Court Judge in November and is scheduled to take office after the first of the year.

It was not clear whether an appointment or other interim arrangement is necessary for the remainder of Hosemann’s term. Some matters in Youth Court, which the County Court Judge also administers, require action within 24 hours, but Price said he knew of no such matters that were pending over the weekend.

Supreme Court public information officer Beverly Pettigrew Kraft said Friday afternoon that she knew of no interim appointment in the works by the high court.

Warren County Board of Supervisors President Richard George said the judicial system would handle any interim appointment that might be necessary.

“We’ve not gotten any word of what action will be taken,” he said.

Price said Friday evening he had not been contacted about the matter. “Until somebody notifies me otherwise, I will be sworn in by the Circuit Clerk’s office on Dec. 31 at an informal ceremony and will take office at one minute after midnight on the 31st,” he said.

Price has said his absence from court to attend a mandatory training session was documented for Hosemann’s court in advance.

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.

Price has filed papers to try to get the charges reinstated.

In briefs filed this week, the two sides differed on why the DUI defendants and their attorneys were in court the day their cases were dismissed.

Price said they were there to have trial dates set, not for actual trials. The commission, which said in its Dec. 17 petition for suspension that it was acting on a citizen complaint, agreed in the brief it filed Thursday.

Hosemann’s brief, filed Monday, said the opposite. “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.

In a six-page dissent, Presiding Justice Chuck McRae said the majority seemed to be rewarding Price’s lack of diligence. “Judge Hosemann’s actions were consistent with case law regarding failure to prosecute,” he wrote.

If granted, the suspension would be Hosemann’s second. The first came April 24, two days after he was arraigned on a Hinds County felony assault indictment. That indictment was dismissed a month later after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor disturbing the peace. That suspension lasted three months.

Hosemann was first elected in 1986 and has served four full terms in the judgeship that includes Warren County Youth Court. He finished last, with 9.3 percent of the vote, in a five-candidate field in the Nov. 5 general election.

Price nearly won a majority in the general election and won easily in a runoff two weeks later.