Associate Circuit Judge Barbara T. Peebles is under investigation for allegedly allowing her clerks to handle litigation matters as she vacationed in China last year. To make matters worse, there is a criminal investigation into the disappearance of a document related to the vacation. In the meantime, another judge, Margaret J. Walsh resigned after allegations that she ordered the handcuffing of an assistant city counselor and used inappropriate or abusive language as well as allegedly attempting to influence city officials when her son was rejected for a job.
The Missouri Supreme Court’s Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline is looking into Peebles vacation and the claim that she allowed clerks to carry out her functions. Her clerks reportedly handled a number of her cases while she was in China on vacation for 10 days in October, including issuing orders to dismiss five cases and issuing as many as 18 bench warrants and continuing more than 300. Some individuals were held in jail due to their actions.
What is interesting is that court officials say that there really was no change due to the vacation and that Peebles routinely allows clerks to do her job even when she is present. One clerk is known as “Judge Whitney” because she regularly dismissed cases and issued arrest warrants and continuances. One brave public defender finally objected in a motion that noted “The court clerk denied this motion without a judge present and without allowing defense counsel an opportunity to argue the motion.”
It would be a curious defense that I always use clerks as substitute judges so this had nothing to do with my vacation. Peebles could be removed on the basis of these allegations.
In the meantime, I assume inmates will get tee shirts reading “My Judge Went On Vacation and All I Got Was This T-shirt And A Bench Warrant.”