Our Views: Facing his second suspension, 18th JDC Judge Robin Free should resign _lowres

Judge J. Robin Free

A state district judge is getting away lightly, a one-year suspension from his job.

The Judiciary Commission is a nine-member board that oversees cases of misconduct by judges. Of the two, Judge Robin Free of the 18th District, near Baton Rouge, is a two-time offender. The Supreme Court agreed to the commission’s recommendation for the suspension.

Is that enough? We don’t think so.

The case involved Free making joking comments about domestic violence as defendants arrested on those charges appeared before him. He used mocking language with female defendants. He was also found by investigators to have improperly held defendants in contempt and jailed them without following Supreme Court rules and, in one case, speaking to family members of victims in a vehicular homicide case when the defendant and his lawyer were not present.

Free was earlier suspended without pay for 30 days for accepting an all-expense-paid trip from a Texas attorney whose client was awarded a $1.2 million settlement in a personal injury lawsuit tried in the judge’s court.

With an elected judiciary, misconduct on the bench must be policed by some outside body. With 10-year terms, the oversight of the voters is simply not enough. “Apparently this judge gets into a hassle with everyone he comes in contact with,” Chief Justice Bernette Johnson said of Free’s record. “He’s lost control of his courtroom.”

Free should resign. But the high court is not doing its job allowing him to remain on the court.