Judge Bruce Roberts Receives Public Reprimand

A justice court judge in Harrison County received a public reprimand Monday for "judicial misconduct."

Judge Bruce Roberts was suspended without pay for 30 days and ordered to pay a $1,500 fine.

The punishment is the end result of complaints filed against Judge Roberts with the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance.

There were two distinct attitudes from Judge Bruce Roberts. He was contrite when the complaints and punishment were read aloud in open court. But afterward, outside the courtroom, it was a defiant Judge Roberts who defended himself and his actions.

"Judge Bruce Roberts. Come forward please sir," directed Judge Jerry Terry, Monday morning at 9:00 AM.

The public reprimand was first on the docket.

"Willful misconduct in office is the improper and wrongful use of power of the office by a judge, acting intentionally or with gross unconcern for his conduct and generally in bad faith," read Judge Terry.

For more than 30 minutes, Judge Terry read details of the formal complaints and the Mississippi Supreme Court's review.

Some involved procedural issues, while others included statements made by Judge Roberts during cases, like the time he voiced an opinion about domestic violence.

"He voiced his opinion in open court that it was ridiculous that Mr. Klubnik had filed a charge against his ex-wife and that domestic violence statutes were designed to protect women," Judge Terry read.

Judge Roberts showed little emotion during the public scolding. He agreed to the commission's findings and punishment.

"Judge Roberts' action involved procedural matters and ignorance of the law," said Judge Terry, as he continued to read the formal findings, "There is no allegation that Judge Roberts engaged in any deceitful, corrupt or in any other way immoral activity."

"Roberts' conduct constitutes willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the judicial office into disrepute," continued Judge Terry.

The contrition shown by Judge Roberts inside the courtroom, gave way to defiance outside.

"When I came into office, I said I would serve justice. I'm convinced that I've served justice, whether or not justice always equates with the law or the judicial canons, is very much in question. But I'm not ashamed of anything I did, even taking it at face value," said Judge Bruce Roberts, who issued a five page "open letter to the people of Harrison County."

"I accept the punishment of the court. But I'm not going to apologize for it," said Judge Roberts, outside the courtroom just after his public reprimand.

A part of Judge Roberts' letter read:

"As I said at the outset, my only regret is not having pursued a vigorous defense of myself. In the end, it came down to this:  The likelihood was that I would have to spend upwards of $10,000 to properly try the case, with the commission likely to recommend punishment regardless of the facts. A full trial on the matters would have involved my calling as witnesses my fellow judges, members of the court staff, and members of the county prosecutor's office. I was hesitant to expose the Justice Court to such scrutiny, but now wish I had."

The letter further states:

"In as much as most of the complaintants in my case were lawyers, there were few lawyers eager to take my case. It is common for a public official who gets into some controversy to claim that those opposed to him are politically motivated. Despite the cliche, I cannot help but believe that this is the case here.  My primary accuser, criminal defense attorney Kay Wilkerson, is now a candidate for county prosecutor. My own erstwhile attorney is likewise now a candidate for office."

Despite facing the public reprimand in circuit court, Judge Roberts won't have to worry about any potential backlash from Harrison County voters. That's because he's not seeking reelection.