check out this video on another Mecklenburg judge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gZ-1nLFdzE&playnext=1&list=PL9589C66FB7A5C3C1
Mecklenburg District Judge John Totten, accused of misconduct while presiding over a drunken driving case, must appear at a disciplinary hearing in November before the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission.
The judge is accused of willful misconduct and violating the Code of Judicial Conduct by throwing out a drunken-driving defendant's alcohol-test results in September 2010 so the defendant wouldn't be punished as harshly as state law requires.
Totten has denied intentionally violating the judicial rules or engaging in misconduct. His disciplinary hearing is set for Nov. 10.
The commission must decide whether to recommend to the N.C. Supreme Court that Totten be censured, suspended or removed from the bench. It could also dismiss the charges.
Totten is accused by the Judicial Standards Commission of signing an order he knew or should have known was "false and misleading." The order throwing out the alcohol test results allowed the DWI defendant to avoid having an interlock device installed on his car.
The device prevents convicted drunken drivers from starting their cars if they've been drinking. It is required for drivers whose alcohol level registered at .15 percent or more.
Why Totten threw out the key DWI evidence remains a mystery. The Judicial Standards Commission charges don't say what might have motivated Totten or whether the judge knew the defendant. And in Totten's formal response to the misconduct charges, the judge did not say why he did it.
It's the second time Totten has been in trouble since his election to the bench in 2008. The 53-year-old judge, who is paid $109,372 a year, was suspended by Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker in March 2010 following complaints that he had made inappropriate remarks to court personnel.
In some of those remarks, sources have told the Observer, Totten recounted experiences at a bar and restaurant and described women's bodies and how scantily they were dressed.
Totten was allowed to return to the bench in July 2010. He said in a statement that he regretted making "offensive" comments to his associates and that "my future conduct will be above reproach."
Totten is the second Mecklenburg judge ordered to appear before the Judicial Standards Commission in two years.
In 2009, the commission recommended that District Judge Bill Belk be removed from the bench for misconduct.
Belk was accused of continuing to serve on the board of Sonic Automotive, one of the nation's largest auto retailers, after his election to the bench in 2008.
The Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from serving on boards of directors of businesses, to avoid conflicts of interest.
Belk resigned his judgeship a week before the commission recommended that he be removed from the bench. The Supreme Court in April 2010 banned Belk from ever returning to the bench, ruling that he had "demonstrated willful misconduct in office."
Totten's latest troubles stem from a DWI case he presided over on Sept. 24.
Read more at www.charlotteobserver.com
Glenmore Hopkins had pleaded guilty to DWI in Totten's courtroom. The prosecutor then presented evidence supporting the charge, including that Hopkins had an alcohol level of .17 percent - more than twice the legal limit of .08.
Totten sentenced Hopkins to 12 months of probation and ordered him to pay a $250 fine and perform 48 hours of community service.
But after the sentencing, Totten took steps to minimize the punishment Hopkins would face, the Judicial Standards Commission alleges. The judge asked Hopkins' attorney, David Lange, to approach the bench, according to the charges, and told Lange of his intent to set aside the state's requirement for an interlock device on Hopkins' vehicle.
Totten told Lange to prepare an order suppressing the alcohol-test results, the commission alleges. When Lange returned to the courtroom about an hour later with the order, the judge signed it.
In his formal response to the charges, Totten acknowledged that he told Lange he would sign an order to suppress Hopkins' alcohol-test results. The judge also admitted that the prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Steven Hardgrave, had not been asked to participate in the conversation at the bench and wasn't aware of what the judge and defense attorney were talking about.
But Totten says both the defense lawyer and prosecutor were present at the bench when he signed the order. The judge said the prosecutor objected to the order.
Totten's order claimed that a motion to suppress the alcohol test level had been made in court and that the prosecutor and defense attorney had argued their positions before he decided to throw out the test results, according to the Judicial Standards Commission.
But no such motion was made and no hearing was held, the commission alleges.
The judge also has admitted that he did not know when he signed the order, but should have known, that it contained several inaccurate statements concerning the existence of a motion to suppress, a review of the evidence and arguments made by the defense attorney and prosecutor.