Judge punished after lawyers said she left court early for ‘hair and nail salon visits’ – Charlotte Observer

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A North Carolina judge was publicly reprimanded for behavioral issues, according to the state Supreme Court.

Cumberland County general court Judge April M. Smith was punished for “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute,” the Supreme Court of North Carolina ruled on May 10.

The conduct that damaged the integrity of the judiciary included making negative remarks about her superior and rushing through cases, or ending court early for personal reasons, according to the ruling.

With its ruling, the Supreme Court enforced a recommendation made by the Judicial Standards Commission. It cited several instances where Smith’s comments, behavior and actions were “inappropriate to her office” and showed “a lack of respect for the judicial office and for the Chief District Judge.”

Smith “repeatedly and regularly” made “disparaging comments about the Chief Judge to other judges, judicial staff, clerical staff, and members of the local bar,” the court said. Smith said she was treated unfairly by the chief judge, who is responsible for her schedule.

“She also suggested to court personnel working with the Chief Judge that his scheduling decisions towards her were racially motivated,” the court said. But the Judicial Standards Commission found “no evidence of racial bias or that Respondent’s schedule was unfair or burdensome as compared to other judges,” according to the ruling.

It determined that the chief judge used a fair system to make schedules. The ruling also said that the chief judge accommodated Smith’s schedule requests when she began “experiencing serious health issues” in 2016 and needed to seek treatment that included taking a leave of absence on multiple occasions.

The ruling also found there were issues when Smith was in court.

The Judicial Standards Commission said it had been contacted by multiple attorneys who said Smith “rushed to conclude cases to avoid working the full afternoon or the next day.”

On some occasions, lawyers said Smith announced to the court that “she was adjourning court early for personal appointments, such as for hair and nail salon visits or to spend time with her child,” the Judicial Standards Commission said.

According to the ruling, these actions “caused some attorneys to have concerns about a full and fair opportunity to be heard.”

Smith admitted she “rushed through court sessions to the detriment of the parties and even courtroom staff,” according to the ruling.

Because of this behavior and perception, some members of the local bar association requested Smith be removed from “domestic courtrooms.”

There is no indication that happened, but Smith did receive the public reprimand from the Supreme Court, which it said was “appropriate,” in the ruling.

Smith was elected to the 12th Judicial Circuit in 2014, according to ballotpedia. She has an undergraduate degree from East Carolina and got her law degree from Wake Forest, according to the website.

Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State and McClatchy Carolinas Regional Team. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.

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