ARIZONA DAILY SUN, September 20th, 1998; front page:
Judge charged with misconduct
Hot temper, hot water
by Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services.
Following are some of the charges leveled against Coconino County Superior Court Judge J. Michael Flournoy and his responses in a written brief.
Charge: Flournoy "verbally attacked" attorney Dennis Glazer both in court and in chambers because Glazer did not take a position the judge liked.
Response: The judge admitted raising his voice because the attorney was seeking a delay when there was "no legal justification" for the delay being sought "and I made my feeling on this obvious to the parties" The judge said if he offended Glanzer "I am truly apologetic."
:Charge: Flournoy was heard yelling at attorney David Anderson, "If you donít like it you can wear a robe," or "If you donít like it, you can just get out of my courtroom."
Response: There is no evidence he made the statements nor does he recall having said anything like that.
Charge: Flournoy threatened attorney Joel Sannes with contempt for objection to a line of questioning in a case.
Response: Sannes is a "young and relatively inexperienced attorney" who is handling his first case involving child dependency. He said Sannes "was close to committing legal malpractice" and "I tried to warn him of what he was going to do."
Charge: Flournoy threatened to throw attorney Lewis Levin in jail for instructing his client not to answer specific question that he felt were improper in a criminal case.
Response: The judge said he doesnít have enough information to determine if the charge is true and, therefore, denied it.
Charge: Flournoy was approached by Julie Carlson, clerk of superior court, about a problem with the numbering system for grand jury cases. Flournoy made "derogatory and cruel comments," claiming she didnít know how to do her job. Carlson "felt physically threatened."
Response: Carlson came "marching" into his office with an intent to confront him because she felt the judge was usurping her powers. "I have a right to control that behavior even if it means that I raise my voice or ask her to leave my office."
Charge: Flournoy was seen swatting the buttocks of attorney Sarah Heckathorne with a file folder and called her "the best looking prosecutor."
Response: "I donít recall doing this."calling it "inappropriate." The judge said he told someone she is a good-looking prosecutor and "that was a true statement."
Charge: Flournoy said attorney Nina Stensonís "muscles were certainly looking good."
Response: "Any compliments which I may have paid to this attorney were meant sincerely and were not lascivious in nature." He did not recall discussing her muscles with anyone.
Flournoyís temper triggered probe
By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services
Phoenix-- The Arizona Commission on Judicial Conduct has charged a Coconino County Superior Court judge with misconduct, much of it stemming from his temper.
J. Michael Flournoy is charged with yelling at some lawyers and threatening others who appeared in his courtroom.
He is also charged with yelling at Julie Carlson, the clerk of superior court, improperly discussing cases with attorneys outside the courtroom and making "inappropriate" comments about the physical attributes of attorneys and court staff.
Flournoy, in a 34-page response, acknowledged that he sometimes raises his voice "when attempting to make a point" and said it "could be seen as intimidating to either the attorneys or their clients."
He said his interaction with Carlson was justified, and he denied any misconduct in out-of-court discussions of cases.
As to the comment about female staffers--- including allegedly swatting a woman attorney on the buttocks with a file folder--- Flournoy said he doesnít recall the incidents but said his actions were not intended to offend.
Flournoy said he will stop sharing any observations about women with his staff "now that I am aware they are offended by this."
Flournoy also denied a final charge of tampering with a transcript to edit out comments he made a bout a juror. He said the record shows the incident never happened.
In a written statement to the Daily Sun (see full text page 8), Flournoy cited the speedy processing of more than 3,400 cases in his Division 1 courtroom since 1995 and the "no-nonsense" approach needed to accomplish such a record.
"This control of the courtroom has allowed the Court to take control of its calendar" Flournoy wrote. "Because of this, a small number of individuals became upset. This is the basis of the complaints set forth. The Court does not believe that it has acted improperly but rather feels that it has done a good job in carrying out the duties of the office."
No date has beem set for a hearing before the full commission. After taking testimony, the commission can recommend that there be no action against Flournoy or that he be punished with anything form censure to removal from the bench. The final decision is up to the state Supreme Court.
The charges, drafted by an attorney hired by the commission, contain no recommendation on appropriate penalty. But attorney Paula Burgess noted that the commission has disciplined Flournoy four times in the past, going back to 1993. The specifics of those complaints, which were settled without the need for a hearing, have not been made public.
According to the statement of charges, a commission staffer met with Flournoy in March to discuss his "apparent temper problem." That included, "significant" outbursts of temper that exceeded the normal response due to frustration or impatience and occurred with little of no provocation." the complaint states.
Flournoy would "yell at attorneys, litigants or others in the courtroom, become red in his face, shake his finger at the "offending party, and belittle attorneys in front of their clients."
The judge responded that raising his voice is his "personality and demeanor."
Even after that, though, the file states, problems continued.
Flournoy is accused of yelling at several attorneys, accusing one of incompetence, threatening another with contempt and intimidating one.
Judge responds to the charges
In addition to a 34-page brief he filed with the Commission on Judicial Conduct, Division 1 Coconino Superior Court Judge J. Michael Flournoy has also released the following statement regarding the charges:
A disagreement occurred in December 1997 over the numbering system in regard to Grand Jury cases. Because of this, a complaint relative to the disagreement was filed. An investigation took place which went far beyond the disagreement between the two parties. The investigation has revealed the following:
From 1995 through August 1998, the Court handled approximately 3,445 new cases plus many other cases that needed review. There were approximately 9,143 scheduled hearings during this time, with approximately 8,000 of these hearing being held during this period of time. The average criminal case took 55 days in 1997 and has taken 60 days this far in 1998 to complete in Division 1. This compares to the 290 days for each case in Maricopa County. These statistics rank among the best in the United States.
A trial in any matter can be set within 3-4 week. Any hearing can be scheduled within a week to ten days. All matters are expediently handled. In order to accomplish these results the Court must have a no-nonsense approach.
This control of the courtroom has allowed the Court to take control of the calendar. Because of this, a small minority of individuals have become upset. This is the basis of the complaints set forth. All files are public record and are subject to review. The Court does not believe it has acted improperly but rather feels that it has done a good job in carrying out the duties of the office.
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