Jefferson County Judge removed from the bench effectively immediately
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - UPDATE: Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton is appealing the order that removed her from the bench in December. She questions the burden of proof the Court used to make their decisions and argues some of the allegations they cited in her final order lacked clear and convincing evidence. There’s a hearing set for February.
ORIGINAL: Jefferson County Judge Nakita Blocton has been removed from the bench by the Court of the Judiciary late Friday following a four day trial.
The Judicial Inquiry Commission filed a scathing complaint against Blocton in May, charging her with seven counts and alleging multiple violations of the Canons of Judicial Ethics.
The Court of the Judiciary found the Commission proved Blocton engaged in a pattern of abuse with her staff, litigants and attorneys practicing in her courtroom. That abuse included forcing staff to work long hours and weekends, inappropriate name-calling, and verbally abusing and belittling employees. The Court highlighted an incident when a litigant who was desperate for an order to be signed called Blocton’s office without her attorney’s knowledge. As a result, Blocton called the attorney and forced her to beg for Blocton’s judicial assistant to keep her job.
The Court also found Blocton used multiple Facebook aliases to communicate with a litigant in an effort to influence a divorce case pending in her courtroom. That litigant testified during Blocton’s trial that at times he felt like he was in a movie based on the bizarre nature of online communications that he suspected were with the judge. The ruling also noted Blocton attempted to influence the Commission’s investigation by engaging in witness tampering and asking employees to delete messages.
The Court denied the Commission presented clear and convincing evidence that she abused drugs and was mentally unstable. A former employee testified that Blocton forced her to take the diet pill Phentermine to “pep up” after working long hours.
Despite having a heavy caseload, the Court found Blocton failed to dispose of cases in a timely fashion, which forced some litigants to wait extensive periods of time for her to sign approved settlements. An attorney who was appointed to help clear Blocton’s backlog after she was suspended from the bench testified that she was ‘appalled’ by the number of Blocton’s cases that had been pending for an inappropriate amount of time without resolution.
Ultimately, the Court found Blocton violated three Canons of Judicial Ethics and ordered her removal from the bench immediately. Blocton must also pay for the costs of the trial.
Governor Kay Ivey will appoint the next judge to fill Blocton’s position. Ivey will consider recommendations from the Jefferson County Judicial Commission.
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