08/27/04 — Lawyer reponds to judge's censure explanation

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Lawyer reponds to judge's censure explanation

By Other
Published in News on August 27, 2004 2:02 PM

A Jacksonville lawyer who has sued Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell accuses the judge of lying about the lawsuit and of besmirching his character.

Braswell issued a statement Tuesday in which he discussed the suit that had been filed by the lawyer, Jerome Willingham.

That suit is at the heart of a censure of Braswell last week by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The judge was censured for failing to recuse himself from a hearing in another case that involved Willingham.

Willingham had asked Braswell to step aside because they were adversaries. Braswell refused, and Willingham complained to the Judicial Standards Commission, which agreed with him that Braswell should have recused himself.

Braswell's response, which was reported Tuesday, contained allegations against Willingham, and on Thursday Williamham released this statement:

"Judge Braswell is attempting to deflect criticism, minimize culpability, and avoid accepting responsibility for his misconduct. The Judicial Standards Commission and the North Carolina Supreme Court considered Judge Braswell's allegations, and fairly decided his case of misconduct. Yet Judge Braswell continues to lie, and attempt to demean me. I will not allow this judge to lie, cast negative aspersions, and besmirch my character.

"Judge Braswell indicated, 'Willingham accused Braswell of alienation of affection and encouraging Charlene Willingham to commit perjury, thereby trying to create a conflict between Braswell and his client that would require Braswell to withdraw in the representation of his client.' I never did anything to get Braswell to withdraw from representing Charlene because I was happy with his ineffectiveness. When I filed suit against Braswell on 30 October 1996, the case against Charlene was over. The issues were resolved on 25 September 1995 when, with Braswell's representation, Charlene admitted adultery and cruelty, and that I was without fault! The Judge granted me the Divorce from Bed and Board.

"I never told Braswell that my case against him would be dismissed as a part of a settlement of Charlene Willingham's case. The only attorney who neglected to perform in my case against Charlene was Braswell, as reflected in the last court order. It would have been unethical for Braswell to settle his personal case as a condition of settlement of his client's case. Further, Judge Braswell lied. There never was a property settlement in my case against Charlene!

"I never represented to Judge Braswell that the other attorney consented to a continuance. I told the other attorney that Judge Braswell could not hear my case because of Braswell's conflict. The reason I requested a continuance was because Judge Braswell would be biased, having an obvious conflict of interest.

"Although Braswell had filed an answer and motion to transfer in my case against him, he claimed not to know about the case. A courtroom clerk secured the file showing him that the case was pending. If the case had not been decided or dismissed, it was pending! The case was placed in inactive status because of his failure to proceed on his motion for transfer to his home county. This is a 'red herring' anyway because he would have had a conflict of interest even if the District Court case were no longer pending."