TROY, Mo. — A disciplinary commission is recommending a six-month suspension without pay for an eastern Missouri judge, citing “serious” and “troubling” concerns about her performance on the bench.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/2d5ykZG ) reports that Missouri’s Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline recommended the discipline this week for Lincoln County Circuit Judge Chris Kunza Mennemeyer. Among the concerns raised by the commission are allegations that Mennemeyer improperly delayed cases for months, and that she tried to coerce and intimidate public defenders.
The complaint says some of the defendants were forced to stay in jail during delays, costing them up to $45 a day in room and board charges.
Mennemeyer’s fate will be decided by the Missouri Supreme Court.
A lawyer for Mennemeyer did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The commission complaint describes an “obvious and oppressive abuse of power and denial of due process” and a “class action lawsuit waiting to happen.” The commission said the misconduct arose from a dispute with public defenders.
Public defenders in many parts of Missouri typically handle serious probation violation matters for defendants they have represented before in the same or another case. But Mennemeyer believed that state law did not allow that without a judge’s blessing, calling it “illegal and unethical.”
The commission said her legal interpretation was wrong.
On Oct. 1, 2014, Mennemeyer emailed Thomas Crocco, head public defender for the circuit, threatening to file a complaint against any public defender who tried to handle such cases.
Meanwhile, the commission said that Mennemeyer delayed nine cases from between 60 and 79 days, subverting those defendants’ right to a lawyer. Crocco thought it also delayed the defendants’ ability to resolve their cases, according to the report.
The commission also found that Mennemeyer filed an ethics complaint against Crocco in a case in which he sought to have someone released after they were mistakenly sent to prison.
The commission said it was clear that Mennemeyer had minimal experience in criminal law before taking the bench in 2013, and that as the only circuit judge in Lincoln and Pike counties, she lacked advice from fellow judges. But the commission also said Mennemeyer failed to do proper research or seek help from more experienced judges.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com