01/06/05 — Humbug: Judge gives magistrates a rude Christmas present

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Humbug: Judge gives magistrates a rude Christmas present

Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell has explained why he notified Wayne County Magistrates Remona McIver and Sandra Castle on Christmas Eve that they were losing their jobs.

The terms of all magistrates were to expire on Dec. 31. Braswell said he received nominations for the jobs from the clerk of court, Marshall Minchew, on Monday, Dec. 20. The judge said he had until Dec. 27 to make his choices, and he conducted interviews on the 22nd and 23rd. That was a Wednesday and Thursday.

Braswell noted that Friday, which was Christmas Eve, and Monday, Dec. 27, were state holidays. So, working with “all deliberate speed,” he said, he gave the two women their pink slips on Christmas Eve.

For downright Christmas crudeness, even Ebenezer Scrooge could hardly match that.

If Dec. 24 and Dec. 27 were both state holidays, why pick Christmas Eve? He could just as well have allowed Ms. McIver and Ms. Castle and their families to get through Christmas before he broke the news on the Dec. 27 state holiday.

But the timing is only a small part of the story. Still unanswered is why he fired the two in the first place.

Without questioning his right to do so, which is clear, it is appropriate to ask whether it was in the county’s best interest to appoint two inexperienced magistrates to replace one with 17 years of experience and one with four years.

Braswell refuses to discuss his reasons on the grounds that they are personnel matters, which only makes the predicament appear more suspicious. Ms. McIver — who was the chief magistrate, incidentally — and Ms. Castle had both testified against another Braswell appointee, R. Allen Jones. Jones had been accused of abusing his authority. Braswell himself held a hearing and ruled that the accusation was groundless.

After appearing against Jones, Ms. McIver and Ms. Castle might have suspected that Braswell would get rid of them, considering the scandalous way he has handled other magistrate appointments.

Still, it must have been shocking to have their firings announced to them on Christmas Eve.

Published in Editorials on January 6, 2005 8:46 AM