The Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission has filed a motion to dismiss their civil case against former Limestone County district judge Doug Patterson, but they want to keep the option of going after him again if he's found guilty in his criminal trial.
If the Alabama Court of the Judiciary denies the motion, the JIC requested it at least be stayed until after the criminal trial — something Patterson's attorney requested earlier this year and the JIC argued against.
In a motion filed July 21, the JIC asked the civil case be dismissed without prejudice, saying Patterson's recent resignation "only partially restores the public's confidence in the judiciary," and waiting until after the criminal trial is finished could serve to boost the civil case against him.
"An adjudication of guilt on the criminal charges, after a public trial, could serve as factual findings for many essential allegations of this Complaint, thereby declaring his accountability for acts with which he is charged in this Complaint," the motion reads.
The civil case alleges Patterson violated canons 1, 2, 2A, 2B and 5C (1) of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics, which cover integrity, independence of the judiciary, maintaining high standards of conduct, avoiding impropriety, promoting public confidence, avoiding conduct that brings judicial office into disrepute and refraining from financial and business dealings that exploit judicial position.
The civil case cited the criminal charges against Patterson as evidence. Those charges include use of official position or office for personal gain, first-degree financial exploitation of the elderly and third-degree theft of property, with each charge related to Patterson's time as an attorney or district court judge.
A jury trial in the criminal case was set to begin June 15 but was postponed in May due to the pandemic. As of Monday, a new date had not been announced.
If the civil case cannot be dismissed without prejudice, the JIC has requested it at least be continued until after the criminal trial. The motion said even though Patterson resigned as judge, "a judge cannot use his or her voluntary relinquishment of the office of judge to escape a disciplinary proceeding commenced against that judge."
Furthermore, "the public must be reassured that the judiciary of this State does not tolerate or condone judicial misconduct of the type here, but recognizes and condemns it."
If the court agrees to dismissal without prejudice, the JIC also wants Patterson to pay back at least a small portion of what the JIC has had to spend in preparing for the civil case. According to the Alabama Department of Finance, Patterson received $108,828 in pay from September 2019 until his resignation July 7, but the JIC is only able to seek recovery of certain costs.
Those costs, according to the motion, total $563.44 — $136.74 for witness fees and reimbursable mileage; $55.60 to serve eight subpoenas by certified mail; and $371.10 to produce eleven copies of trial notebooks and exhibits at 5 cents per page.
"(Patterson's) delayed resignation cost the Judicial Department over $70,000 in judicial salary, as well as health insurance costs, since December 17, 2019, the date he signed a letter addressed to the Presiding Circuit Judge of the 39th Judicial Circuit wherein he admitted to, while a judge, stealing from elderly clients and stealing funds belonging to the people of Limestone County," the motion reads. "The Commission is not aware of any legal mechanism for recouping these costs for the Judicial Department."
In fact, the motion continues, current state law specifically provides for any judge who has been suspended following indictment on a felony charge or a complaint being filed in the Court of the Judiciary to suffer no loss in salary.