State Bar asks highest court to discipline Hinds district attorney

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Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

R.L. Nave, Mississippi Today

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith

JACKSON – The Mississippi Bar’s general counsel Wednesday asked the state Supreme Court to consider discipline for Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, who is accused of acting irrationally and committing illegal communications since January.

The complaint asks for a “complaint tribunal” to “impose appropriate discipline” on Smith, who’s facing six state misdemeanor charges that he illegally assisted criminal defendants.

Adam Kilgore, the Bar’s general counsel, asked for the high court’s action in a five-page formal complaint, with numerous attached documents he claims show Smith’s misbehavior.

Kilgore stated that his formal complaint arises out of two informal Bar complaints against Smith – one from Hinds County Judge Melvin Priester Sr. and the other from Circuit Judge Tomie Green of Hinds County.

In a March 14 letter to Kilgore, Priester terms Smith “irrational, manic and virtually out of control” in a March 3 hearing before Priester. He states the DA “continuously moved back and forth” in behavior “so bizarre” that Priester was obliged to report it to the Bar, which has governing authority over its lawyer membership.

Green’s complaint to the Bar and Kilgore comes from two allegations that Smith improperly attempted to contact lawyer Amy Whitten, whom Green had designated a special judge in matters related to Smith, and that Smith made “malicious and unprofessional statements” during a Feb. 12 news conference about Green’s communications with other lawyers “behind his back.”

In a hand-delivered message to Smith on Feb. 17, Green told him his conduct “was intentional, retaliatory and improperly coercive” when she had taken under advisement an issue about his actions over grand jury subpoenas in January.

Green’s hand-written letter to Kilgore, dated Feb. 24, said she had under consideration grand jury subpoenas that “were challenged” by the state Attorney General’s Office and his staff, and the Mississippi Department of Corrections chief Marshall Fisher and his staff. Fisher is former chief of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

She told Kilgore that on Feb. 9, Smith slipped a handwritten note under her office door, “trying to get me to meet with his mother,” whom she said she knew but did not have a personal relationship with. She said she emailed him that his request was “odd and improper.”

The next day, Green wrote, Smith’s mother, Alice Smith, left a voicemail at her office, claiming the call was in response to Green’s query, which Green said didn’t occur. “She was a bit irate and demanded respect and said she knew ‘what to do.'”

Kilgore attached a copy of a short note, which appears to be to Green from DA Smith.

Also attached to the MSSC complaint is a transcript of a preliminary hearing before Judge Priester on March 3 related to defendant Christopher Butler, who is one of the persons Smith is accused of illegally assisting.

Smith has yet to make a public statement about the charges against him.

In the hearing, Butler’s attorney, Sanford Knott, contended the Attorney General’s Office did not have the authority to prosecute Butler. Smith agreed, the transcript shows.

The AG representatives argued against their positions, saying Butler had been indicted “in other cases” the DA’s office was handling. Knott insisted that didn’t matter.

In the hearing’s progress, Smith told the judge that a video being used against Butler was tampered with and shows he “was framed twice.” Priester said he had seen the video.

The judge also told Smith he wasn’t “going to inject myself into the cloak and dagger issues between the DA’s Office and the senior circuit judge and whatever judge or whoever it was that took the case. That’s way over my pay grade right now.”

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler, right, and his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, appeared in a private hearing before Circuit Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes on Wednesday.

Patsy Brumfield, Mississippi Today

Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler, right, and his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, appeared in a private hearing before Circuit Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning, Smith and his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, appeared in a private hearing before Circuit Judge LaRita Cooper-Stokes on their motion for “immediate dismissal” of state charges against Smith. Representatives of the AG’s Office also attended.

When all sides emerged from the brief meeting, Waide said a transcript will be available Thursday to reflect what happened in the meeting. He declined to comment further, saying Smith already was in trouble with local judges for his comments earlier this year.

  • Charles Pearce

    …and just imagine all the subplots swirling within this new episode of Law Land.