Mexico Judge Accepts Public Criticism as Punishment for Public Argument

The state Commission on Judicial Conduct is punishing a Town of Mexico judge with public criticism as a result of what the judge said was a fight with his then-girlfriend at an event.

The Commission is admonishing Town Justice Douglas Horton.  Admonishment is the second of four levels of punishment and amounts to a public criticism of his actions.  Horton accepted the punishment, according to a news release from the commission.

Documents made public today show that Horton got into an argument with his wife at the March 27, 2010 annual banquet of the Mexico Town Volunteer Fire Department.  Horton is a longtime member of the department.

The statement of facts in the case offers this narrative of events:

The couple had been having trouble in their eight-year relationship.  They had each had several drinks at the banquet, according to the statement of facts in the case.

The woman asked Horton why he had danced with other women but not with her.  He responded with an expletive and they argued.  As she turned to leave the area, he hooked her arm and eventually pushed her to the floor.

State Police were called, but the woman did not want to press charges.

Horton was suspended from the fire department for 30 days and was banned from drinking alcohol at fire department events for 6 months.

The couple split before the end of the year and worked out an agreement to share custody of their child.

In its decision, the commission said that the incident was unseemly and unbecoming of a judge, and that having several alcoholic drinks was not an excuse.

From the decision:

“For one who holds a position of public trust and who presides over cases involving domestic violence in which he is called upon to pass judgment over the actions of others, such conduct adversely affects respondent’s ability to administer the law effectively and impartially (see, Matter of Roepe, 2002 Annual Report 153). The fact that respondent’s girlfriend decided not to file a complaint against him with the troopers who were called to the scene does not mitigate the wrongfulness of his conduct.”

The commission said that Horton agreed that his actions were improper and the commission said Horton is “contrite and apologizes for having brought disrepute to the judiciary by his conduct.”

The commission opted for admonition, the decision said, because Horton has no prior record of trouble and has had no difficulties with his ex-girlfriend since the incident.