Judge’s Comments Spark Misconduct Allegations
Hennepin County District Court Judge Jack Nordby has been accused by the Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards of misconduct following his in-court remarks that criticized Watch, a court-monitoring organization.
According to a complaint made public by the board on Wednesday, Nordby was scheduled to sentence convicted child molester Kris Kahn in December 2009.
After hearing testimony from Hahn's victim and the victim's mother, Nordby said that he needed additional time to determine whether the sentence should run consecutive to a federal court sentence that Hahn was already serving.
Nordby then allegedly told the court that he wanted to “raise another issue on my own, here, that I've given some attention to”-at which point he read a statement directed against Watch.
According to the complaint, Nordby-who has served as a district court judge since 1995 and whose current term expires in 2015-said that members of the group carry red clipboards that are a “not very subtle threat to the judge” and “represent strongly partisan communications of a threatening nature to judges.” He also equated the red clipboards to gang signs, stating that gang members often use signs to intimidate witnesses-a method that is “essentially the same” as Watch's actions.
The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards on Wednesday also released a copy of Nordby's response to the allegations. The response claims that the board's accusations lack context and that Nordby made his comments “in response to a deliberate attempt by an outside party-Watch-to influence his judicial decisions” in the Hahn case.
Nordby's response states that he never questioned the rights of Watch representatives to observe a public courtroom, but rather focused on their attempt to influence the proceedings.
The board's complaint outlines a series of conduct codes requiring judges to “uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and to avoid impropriety,” among other rules.
Nordby's response says that the accusations lack clarity as to what provisions he allegedly violated. He claims that the complaint should be dismissed on the grounds that it lacks merit.
Watch, which was founded in Minneapolis in 1992, is made up of volunteers whose mission is “to make the justice system more effective and responsive in handling cases of violence against women and children,” according to the group's Web site.
The Minnesota Board on Judicial Standards is an independent state agency that receives and acts on complaints regarding Minnesota judges.