08/17/04 — Judge censured by court

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Judge censured by court

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 17, 2004 2:06 PM

The State Supreme Court has censured Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell of Goldsboro for presiding over civil proceedings when he might have had a conflict of interest.

Censure is one way that higher courts call attention to misbehavior on the part of a judge.

Braswell's censure was based on his failure to recuse himself -- or step aside -- in a case that was tried in Onslow County in 2002. Braswell is the chief Superior Court judge for the judicial district that includes Wayne, but he sometimes presides in other counties as well.

In censuring him, the Supreme Court followed a recommendation of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission, which had investigated a complaint against the judge.

The court's order of censure said the matter involved the case of R. Walt Willingham and Nathaniel Willingham v. Interbay Funding. It said the plaintiff in the case had an unrelated suit pending against Braswell.

The order said that Nathaniel Willingham "made an informal motion in chambers and thereafter a formal motion on the record for Braswell to disqualify himself" because of Willingham's and Braswell's adversarial relationship. It added that Braswell denied the motions and presided over a hearing in the case.

This violated canons of the North Carolina Code of Judicial Conduct and tended to bring the judicial office into disrepute, the order said.

It said that Braswell told the Judicial Standards Commission that during the discussion of recusal he was not convinced that there was a conflict of interest.