Mississippi was recently determined to be the “most corrupt” state. It appears we may be deserving of that title…
A post earlier this year told of the woe of Judge Joe Dale Walker and self-dealing from the bench which lead to his removal, conviction and incarceration.
In summary, Walker instructed a federal grand jury witness to destroy documents and then Walker lied to the FBI about it.
Walker appointed a Conservator to solicit bids for the construction of a home for a ward, a litigant in his Court. Of the bids obtained, one was from the Judge’s nephew. The Judge reviewed the bids in his office and instructed his nephew to increase his bid. Walker then transferred the case to the other Judge in the district for the limited purpose of accepting and approving the bid because of his nephew’s involvement. After the contract was awarded to Walker’s nephew, the case was transferred back to Walker by the second Judge.
This conduct lead to his demise. But, the story is not over…
The second Judge, David Shoemake, is now in the hot seat over the same allegations.
Shoemake originally denied signing the Order approving the bid. The Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance conducted an investigation into these allegations.
Concerning the order dated August 2, 2011, Shoemake testified at a Judicial Performance Show Cause Hearing, “I’ll say no, it’s not my signature. It looks like my signature. But I don’t think it’s my signature. I think it’s been transposed or cut and pasted or something.” (Ex. 4 at 30). As the questioning continued concerning that order, Shoemake grew more insistent:
Q: So you maintain that this is not your signature on the order filed on August 9th and dated August 2nd?
A: Yes ma’am, that’s what I maintain. And, if you will notice, the order that has the date August 2nd, 2011, has been cut and pasted. It’s got three computer fonts on the front page. And it tries to cut in this language from the copy of the order that she sent me at 3:59 an [sic] August 2, 2011. So the order has obviously been messed with. Somebody has cut and pasted. (Ex. 4 at 37).
Shoemake then stated, “I have never in my life signed a second page with a signature blank on it and that’s all; as a lawyer doing deeds or accepting deeds or any kind of document. I would not have signed my name on a page with my signature blank alone, because it just throws into credibility the first page. You can change the two pages, make them interchangeable.“
His testimony “changed” following a handwriting analysis. The Commission had a handwriting analysis conducted which determined that it was in fact Judge Shoemake’s signature on all Orders in controversy.
At a Formal Hearing before the Judicial Performance Commission, Shoemake admitted signing all of the orders in controversy. He argued he was justified in signing the orders after transferring the matter back to Walker because that was customary, he “didn’t see anything wrong with it at that time . . . I have jurisdiction. And judges can accommodate one another in the same district.” (T. at 202). In fact, he never gave that a second thought: “don’t remember that even being an issue.” (T. at 341). He stated he only did it because he was told that was what Walker wanted.
When was asked at the Formal Hearing why, at the prior hearing, he did not simply explain that he signed the orders because he was told that was what Walker wanted, he stated, “I can’t answer that. I don’t know.” (T. at 346).
Based on the above, the Commission has recommended that Shoemake be removed from office, that he be fined the sum of $2,500 and ordered to pay the costs of these proceedings in the sum of $5,882.67. This matter is now before the Mississippi Supreme Court.
The current allegations are limited to conduct on the bench and whether they are violations of the Cannons of Judicial Ethics.