Published on: Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Arkansas Supreme Court has suspended a judge without pay for 30 days and ordered him to hire a counselor or a life coach for rude and intimidating treatment of public defenders in the courtroom (article available here).

Judge Barry Sims, a circuit judge in Pulaski County, Arkansas, is to take a class on mindfulness, patience or civility with a judicial training organization. Another is for Sims to hire a counselor or a life coach “to help consult with him about how he treats professionals appearing in his court.” Sims had not contested the sanction.

According to undisputed facts cited by the commission:

• In April 2019, Sims was “impatient, discourteous and rude to a public defender” during a hearing on a no-knock search warrant. At one point, Sims left the bench while the public defender was questioning a witness. When the public defender was responding to an objection, Sims would not let her make her record. His “tone of voice was curt,” and his “facial expressions, demeanor and actions alarmed other attorneys and members of the gallery.”

• In May 2019 during voir dire in a criminal trial, Sims called the lawyers to the bench and made statements about the way that the public defender was conducting voir dire. He asked the public defender whether her client had a defense and whether she would accept a guilty plea. The case ended in an acquittal. Sims’ comments and demeanor were inappropriate and gave the appearance of an attempt to coerce a settlement.