Background: Conscientious Virginia judge James Michael Shull, who smoked out a woman who sought to extend a restraining order based on false charges of domestic violence, was just removed from the bench by this Virginia Supreme Court ruling. To learn more about the case, see my blog posts In Defense of Judge James Michael Shull (Part I), Part II, or Part III, or read my co-authored newspaper column defending Shull here.
Tim Perone of the New York Post writes the following:
“A family court judge in Richmond, Va., was removed from the bench after several kangaroo-court moments, including flipping a coin to decide a custody case. James Michael Shull was unanimously stripped of his robe by the state’s Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission, which also found the jurist guilty of calling a teen a ‘mama’s boy’ and a ‘wuss’ as well as telling a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend.”
I’ve dealt with and have been quoted (and misquoted) by plenty of lazy reporters, but this one takes the cake. The Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission did not “find” Shull “guilty” of anything alleged above. The widely-disseminated Associated Press article by Larry O’Dell that Perone cribbed from states that Shull “had appeared before the Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission in 2004 for allegedly calling a teenager a ‘mama’s boy’ and a ‘wuss’ and advising a woman to marry her abusive boyfriend. That complaint was dismissed…” (emphasis added). There was no finding of anything against Shull at all.
The “marry her abusive boyfriend” is dubious, as I explained here. The “mama’s boy” allegation is also dubious. Shull asserts that the witness that alleged that Shull called a 14-year-old boy a “wuss” was Guardian ad Litem Kristen Dean.
I checked up on Dean and found that, according to the Virginia State Bar’s website, the Bar “suspended Kristen Dawn Dean’s law license for five years, effective on or before December 16, 2005, for misappropriating portions of a client’s personal injury settlement for her own use and then taking steps to deceive and to conceal the misconduct. The board found that Ms. Dean failed to properly communicate with her client; failed to obtain a written contingency fee agreement, failed to provide an appropriate account of the client’s funds; made false statements; engaged in deliberately wrongful conduct; and engaged in fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” What a great witness.
Shull also asserts that the parties in the case contradicted Dean’s accusations. I don’t know if this is true, but the JIRC did dismiss the allegation.
The New York Post also asserts that Shull “flipped a coin to decide a custody case.” Not true–custody had already been decided. All that the coin toss settled was who would get the kids on Christmas, and, given the specific context of the case, Shull was right to determine this in the manner he did. To learn more about this non-incident, click here.