Judge finds himself being judged

Posted by: Eileen Jones - bio | email
Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A West Alabama judge finds himself facing a judge Wednesday. The Alabama Court of the Judiciary is deliberating in the case of Hale County Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins who is accused of not stepping aside in a case involving three of his relatives.

Judge Wiggins has denied it all. The Alabama Judiciary Commission's seven complaints say Wiggins has refused to recuse himself from a voter fraud investigation case that involves three family members.

"Well, we're concerned that elections are fair and honest for everybody," said  Faye Cochran, Hale County's voting registrar. "We want fair and honest elections and we've been working on that for quite sometime now." Cochran said she doesn't believe the elections have always been fair.

Approximately fifty people from Hale and Wilcox counties came to either observe or support Wiggins Wednesday. Even Alabama State University's chairman of the board, Elton Dean, was in the courtroom. Dean said he was there in support of the embattled judge not because Wiggins is a member of the ASU Board but because, "He's an ASU grad..." Dean thinks Wiggins is "an outstanding judge."

During the 15 minute hearing Wiggins' attorneys admitted the judge had made a mistake, but said Wiggins was focusing on the case before him at that time, which did not involve his relatives, and Wiggins was not looking at the big picture.

"Had they answered his question and laid out to him how the family was involved, ain't no doubt in my mind that he would have come out..." attorney Lewis Gillis explained.

When asked how Wiggins could miss the big picture when his own sister is the clerk for Hale County, and Wiggins was presiding over a voter fraud investigation Gillis said the sister's case was not before Wiggins.

Reporter: "But it was a part of the big case!"
Gillis: "That's why I say we were narrowly focusing as apposed to the larger picture."

A court ruling will be handed down Thursday.

Wiggins, who has been suspended from the court with pay for almost 90 days, had no comment. His attorney said if the court of the judiciary decides to punish Wiggins he'll ask the court to consider not paying him a salary for 30 days.

The court of the judiciary hears only complaints against judges and it has to convene about once a year. As for Wiggins, he has been a circuit judge for nearly a decade. His circuit includes five counties, but most of his cases are in Hale County.

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