Volume 6, Number 45 - February 1, 2007
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Judge Crow responds to Wyoming Supreme Court censure order
Last week, Sublette County’s first Circuit Court Judge was publicly censured and assessed disciplinary counsel costs and fees of nearly $1,200 for an apparent failure to “appropriately supervise and discipline members of his court staff, including most notably his wife.”
Now retired from his role as judge, John Crow said he feels the censure and fines are a personal attack that resulted from his wedding in 2001.
“I am very proud of my court,” Crow said. “The public response both before and after my resignation has been both overwhelming and gratifying ... I believe that I have done a good job as the first judge in this county, and I certainly do not apologize for the conduct of the clerks.”
Crow also said: “I take some small pleasure in the fact that the investigator ... was not able to find any evidence ... of failure of my ability or lack of integrity that would be a discredit to the court or to my ability to serve.”
In 2001, Crow and Jacqueline Ingersoll, a long-time clerk for his court, were married. Although his marriage didn’t violate any law of any court, Crow said that at the time, then Supreme Court Chief Justice Larry Lehman, was “terribly incensed” and demanded Crow’s resignation.
After concluding his marriage was none of the Supreme Court’s business, Crow declined to resign, although his wife did offer her resignation, Crow said, but that resignation was refused at the time.
Crow said he felt the Supreme Court refused his wife’s resignation because they were “after bigger fish.”
“Having failed that, he immediately launched into this ethics complaint,” Crow said, which has now resulted in his censure.
“I doubt that it has very much to do with any clerk,” he said.
The Order of Public Censure from the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics outlines statements from former clerks and others who interacted with the Sublette County Circuit Court, including statements from Betty Golden who worked for the court for five years. However, Golden refuted the document stating that she did not quit her job at the court because of Ingersoll, but to get a better paying job.
Golden said she holds Crow in high regard, and the statements attributed to her in the order were taken out of context.
“I was interviewed but I was never told that they would be referring to judge Crow or that ... my statements would be used in any kind of a public documents,” Golden said. “I think it was really strange that they interviewed different people about Jackie but they are using it against Judge Crow ... I don’t think it’s right.”
Crow referred to Wyoming statutes that dictate that the Supreme Court manage the court staff.
“They never even gave me the courtesy of a telephone call to alert me to the problems they perceived,” Crow said.
“I do think it is somewhat ... unusual that they would find that there is inadequate supervision when if fact they are required by law to do the supervising,” Crow said. “The clerks are not my employees they are employees of the Supreme Court.”
It wasn’t until Jan. 24, 2006, that an investigatory panel of the Commission on Judicial Conduct and Ethics started an inquiry into Crow’s supervision of court personnel and sent a letter notifying the judge, according to court order for public censure. Crow was then notified of on March 17, 2006, of the ensuing preliminary investigation. Crow met with disciplinary counsel in the course of the investigation, however, the panel determined that “there was no reasonable cause to believe judicial misconduct occurred with Judge Crow’s supervision of the court” and referred the matter to an adjuciatory panel for formal proceedings. A notice of the proceedings dated May 30 was sent to Crow that a included the findings of the investigatory panel and advised Crow of the charges to be considered.
Crow filed an answer to the accusations, and then on Aug. 30, he filed his intention to retire. The order indicates that Crow entered into an agreed statement of facts, avoiding the hearing.
The order indicates that this is the second time the workings of the court in Pinedale have been “looked into,” with the concerns stemming from Crow’s “alleged failure to exercise appropriate oversight with respect to the workplace conduct of his wife.”
Jacqueline Ingersoll served as the clerk of Crow’s court since its first year of inception until February 2006, when she resigned.
The Sublette County Court started on Jan. 1, 1995, with Ingersoll starting as the clerk of the office on July 1, 1995. Before putting on the court robe, Crow had been elected as the Sublette County Attorney from 1987 to Dec. 31, 1994.
Crow said that the county court, which later became the Sublette County Circuit Court, started without any supervision, support or training.
He said the Supreme Court didn’t fund the operation, and there was never a sense of cooperation to assist the office.
In 2001, after Crow and Ingersoll were married, the order says that a series of events culminated into an ethical complaint made against Crow by the Board of Judicial policy and Administration, of which Justice Lehman was chair. The complaint apparently detailed interpersonal conflict with a former deputy clerk during 2000 as well as a complaint from a member of the public, which apparently made reference to the Crow’s marriage, alleging violation of ethical cannons.
The complaint was resolved by a private censure and corrective notice, dated May 31, 2002, which dictated corrective measures of educating employees of the court regarding their duty to be patient, dignified and courteous with a signed form of compliance along with a six-month period of surveys that invited feedback on the court personnel.
Crow fully complied with the requirements, and the Supreme Court Administrator received many survey forms during 2002 and 2003 with 90 percent of the surveys rating the court favorably.
The order indicates that Crow at no time received copies of the surveys or any communication regarding the forms.
The 2006 complaint came from a Feb. 8 letter from Chief Justice William U. Hill to Crow stating that a third clerk in a five month period had resigned from the court, sparking concern of “the management and administration of the court.” Hill indicated that the local court authority to fill the vacancy was removed.
On Feb. 9, Ingersoll resigned her position.
“It leaves me with the dark suspicion that the agenda was ... personal,” Crow said.
Offering that he has been around the courthouse for nearly 50 years, Crow said he has never seen a time when there wasn’t conflict between clerks or courts.
“The Supreme Court has found that I was remiss in not referring those,” Crow said, adding that he admitted to having some success in not involving himself in office conflicts.
Crow said: “I am insulted by reason of the Supreme Court’s complete lack of cooperation or mitigation with me ... and I am sure that had they chosen to do what they are supposed to do according to the statues or at least communicate with me, none of this would have been required.”
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