Mississippi judge accused of keeping mother from infant child over unpaid court fees resignsNew York Daily News
October 27, 2017
A Mississippi judge accused of preventing a mother from seeing her infant child for more than a year over unpaid court-imposed fees has resigned.
The Youth Court in Pearl has also been permanently closed in light of the accusations filed against Judge John Shirley by The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi, the Clarion Ledger reported.
The mother and a friend were driving through Pearl looking for work last year, while the 4-month-old child rode with them in a car seat in the back. An officer pulled them over for a minor traffic violation and soon learned both adults in the vehicle had outstanding warrants for routine misdemeanor offenses.
After arresting the women, the officer phoned the Mississippi Department of Human Services, telling them the child was "abandoned" as its mother had been detained, according to the newspaper.
The infant's grandmother arrived on the scene minutes later, but the officer insisted they go before Shirley at Pearl Youth Court. The judge almost immediately awarded the grandmother custody but later entered an order forbidding the mother from having any contact with her baby until her court fees were fully paid.
The mother reached out to the MacArthur Justice Center earlier this month, and after an investigation, the center contacted Pearl officials and called for Shirley to be fired.
"As a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi, I am no stranger to injustice, but for a judge to prohibit an impoverished mother from having any contact wither her baby until monetary payments are made is shocking and repugnant," Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice President Cliff Johnson said. "Such orders are tantamount to judicial kidnapping."
The center also suspects this is not the first time Shirley has imposed such an order.
The Youth Court was closed almost immediately and an emergency meeting of the Pearl Board of Alderman was scheduled for Wednesday, which is where Shirley tendered his resignation for both his youth and municipal court positions.
Shirley told the Ledger he did not resign because of the case, but rather, due to a dispute with Pearl Mayor Jake Windham.
"I didn't resign because of any pressure," he said. "I resigned because I got tired of the policies in that administration."
Shirley added that Windham, who took office in the July, aimed to close the Youth Court to save money.
Pearl was the only city in Mississippi to have its own Youth Court, while all others operate on a county level.