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Doug Robinson: Will judge face up to justice?

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7 2012 2:05 a.m. MDT

The Provo Daily Herald published an editorial last week that demanded Stoney be suspended immediately, pending the outcome of an investigation by Utah's JCC into "egregious" violations of a woman's rights. "Unfortunately," the editorial continued, "the arcane wheels of judicial discipline move slowly, and he will remain on the bench, continuing to judge cases even though his competence and ethics are in question. This presents a danger to the public."

The Deseret News has obtained a couple of letters, stamped "confidential," from Collin Winchester, executive director of the JCC, to Stoney. The first letter, dated Nov. 19, 2007, admonishes the judge "to carefully follow the applicable statutes and case law regarding contempt procedures. This advice is now provided for the second time, the first being by letter dated Feb. 12, 2004."

The second letter, dated June 27, 2011, addresses separate contempt cases against Zachary Ellis and Barbara Acord. Ellis, according to one attorney, was sent to jail for 30 days on contempt charges that were never explained — "The attorneys couldn't even figure out why he was there," says one of them. As a result of his jail sentence, his attorneys allege he lost his business.

The letter states, "In the Ellis matter it is alleged that you ordered that Mr. Ellis to be held without bail because of his behavior in court. … It is alleged that you failed to apply the law and maintain professional competence. It is also alleged that you failed to be patient, dignified and courteous to Mr. Ellis.

"In the Acord matter, it is alleged that you directed a clerk to prepare and issue a $10,000 cash-only arrest warrant for Ms. Acord in response to Ms. Acord's treatment of court clerks via telephone earlier that day. It is alleged that the amount and cash-only nature of the bail was excessive in light of the pending charge and that … your actions undermined public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and constituted the appearance of impropriety if not actual impropriety. It is also alleged that you failed to be patient, dignified and courteous to Ms. Acord when she appeared in your court."

The JCC decided to publicly reprimand the judge in the Acord case, but Stoney appealed and the matter is pending a ruling by the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Stoney sits on the bench and it's business as usual.

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