‘I tried my best’: Jefferson Co. judge takes stand in judicial ethics case

Jefferson County Judge Tracie Todd's trial wrapping up
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:55 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WBRC) - Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tracie Todd took the stand as the final defense witness in day three of her Court of the Judiciary trial. 

Todd is accused of violating multiple Canons of Judicial Ethics.

BACKGROUND

  • Todd was found guilty of violating several Canons of Judicial Ethics in December 2021 following an eight-month paid suspension.
  • Todd was reinstated in December 2021 and ordered by the Court of the Judiciary, a panel of nine judges who hear judicial complaints, to serve 90 days without pay.
  • A new complaint was filed against Todd three months later alleging she disobeyed that order and misled the court. The Judicial Inquiry Commission or JIC, investigates complaints against judges. If it’s believed a judge violated a Canon of Judicial Ethics, the JIC will file a lawsuit and the judge is immediately suspended with pay until the case is adjudicated.

Thursday, Todd took the stand for nearly three hours as she and her attorney walked the Court of the Judiciary through the circumstances of her professional and personal life, why she was in Chicago at the time of her reinstatement in December 2021, and how that played a key role in a volatile return to judicial service.

Todd testified that her husband lives in Chicago with their young children who were relocated at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Todd was at their home in Chicago on December 6, 2021 when she was reinstated. While she didn’t immediately receive cases, Todd said she used that time to work remotely with her staff to get the office up and running.

Not long after, her husband fell ill and was forced to quarantine. Todd said her youngest child was exposed to COVID-19 and tested positive putting the family into another quarantine. On her children’s first day back to school in January, her oldest child tested positive for COVID-19. All this played out shortly before she too fell ill with what was suspected to be COVID pneumonia.

Todd told the court she was attempting to work alongside her judicial assistant remotely, as she couldn’t leave Chicago due to sickness and quarantine. Her judicial assistant was working to schedule cases which were received in January, despite experiencing significant personal distress.

“By January, all this came together in a terrible way,” Todd told the Court, referring to the unfortunate timing of family illness and issues impacting the lives of her staff.  As a result, Todd testified her judicial duties fell short and had a negative impact on her colleagues that were called to stand in as judge in emergency situations.

Todd became emotional discussing why she didn’t feel comfortable asking for medical leave upon reinstatement.

“It would have been unfair to everyone to ask for medical leave, but I didn’t get it done as well I should,” she cited, mentioning all the cases that had been transferred back to her would have had to be reversed back to the prior judges. “It’s all been a burden. I didn’t want to ask anybody to do anything for me, that was not a place I wanted to be at all.”

Todd returned to the courtroom in late February and began holding hearings at the end of the month. The Judicial Inquiry Commission’s complaint was filed in March, which suspended her from the bench again.

Todd’s trial is expected to end Friday. The Court of the Judiciary will then have ten days to rule. If found guilty, Todd could face a range of sanctions including being removed from the bench.

Click here for previous coverage from days one and two of the trial.

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