12/05/05 — But with pay: Chief justice suspends an embarrassing judge

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But with pay: Chief justice suspends an embarrassing judge

Our judicial system has a neat way of handling incorrigible big time law violators. It’s the “habitual felon” approach: “Three strikes and you’re out.” Make that three strikes and you’re IN — for life!

Superior Court Judge Evelyn Hill of Raleigh isn’t a convicted felon, or she wouldn’t be allowed to serve on a jury or even vote, much less preside over a session of court.

But she has been a habitual and costly embarrassment to the state judiciary and law-respecting citizens of our state.

Last week, Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. suspended Judge Hill “indefinitely” for what he called “persistent intemperance demonstrating a continuous, habitual pattern of misconduct” in her office as a Superior Court judge.

Judge Hill earlier had been censured twice by the State Supreme Court and faces a third serious charge of “willful misbehavior ” now being considered by the state’s judicial ethics board.

Two weeks ago, a convicted sex offender won the right to a new trial because Judge Hill in open court berated the defendant’s attorney.

In temporarily suspending Judge Hill, Chief Justice Lake observed: “This not the first time her behavior has resulted in new trials at the expense of taxpayers.“

He said that she has “a long history of intemperate behavior ... affecting the public’s trust and confidence in the court system.”

Good for Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake.

But he suspended Judge Hill indefinitely “with pay.” Perhaps that was required by law, and no one has a higher and more no-nonsense respect for the “letter of the law” than I. Beverly Lake.

But Evelyn Hill is 57 and before becoming a Superior Court judge served as a Wake County prosecutor. Under our state’s lenient retirement system for members of the court system, she probably is eligible for a lucrative retirement.

In light of that, what amounts to a paid vacation is little punishment for the embarrassment she has caused the system. And obviously, “Judge” Hill has not been concerned about her personal image — or that of the courts.

Published in Editorials on December 5, 2005 11:22 AM