Suspended and indicted Hinds County Circuit Judge Bobby DeLaughter hasn’t worked in 16 months, but he is still drawing his $104,700 a year salary. Meanwhile, the judicial watchdog group investigating DeLaughter won’t say when its inquiry might conclude.
Brant Brantley, who retired last week as executive director of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance, acknowledges that DeLaughter’s suspension with pay prior to a finding by the commission is one of the longest on record.
But Brantley said he can’t discuss DeLaughter’s case because of laws regarding secrecy of commission investigations.
The commission is said to be investigating at least two complaints against DeLaughter accusing him of “willful misconduct in office” because of his ruling in a fee case involving noted then-attorney Dickie Scruggs and a theft of trade secrets lawsuit in which his former boss, Ed Peters, was involved.
DeLaughter was suspended in March 2008. Nearly a year later, in February, he was indicted in federal court in the bribery case involving Scruggs. He is charged with one count of involvement in a bribery scheme, one count of obstruction of justice and three mail fraud counts of conspiracy. He has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in August in Oxford.
Attorney Thomas Durkin, who is representing the judge in the federal criminal case, said it’s his understanding the commission’s ruling will be delayed until the federal criminal case is resolved.
“I think it was done by mutual agreement, but I don’t represent him in that matter,” Durkin said.
In addition to DeLaughter’s salary, taxpayers also are paying for two special judges appointed by the state Supreme Court to handle his criminal and civil dockets while he is on suspension. Since they are retired circuit judges, the salaries for William Coleman and L. Breland Hilburn are set by state law at a maximum 25 percent of the normal annual pay of a full-time circuit judge.