In October 2015 Missouri Circuit Judge Patricia Joyce dismissed forcible sodomy charges involving a five month old against Aaron Fisher due to a speedy trial violation. Now at least one member of the Missouri House wants the judge investigated for possible impeachment on the grounds of “incompetency.”
News reports indicate that Judge Joyce ordered the charges against Fisher dismissed after prosecutors failed to proceed to trial against Fisher for 6 years.
[Joyce’s order] says, “Missouri courts have found that delay of greater than 8 months is presumptively prejudicial.”
Joyce explains that after hearing evidence, the court concluded since charges were filed in October 2009, the state has failed to bring Fisher to trial without any reason.
The order shows that the only evidence of the defendant’s delay is on continuance request from May 23, 2011.
Fisher filed a motion for a speedy trial in February 2011, and the former Miller Co. prosecutor had 5 jury trial settings. No record was made to protect or address Fisher’s rights to a speedy trial, therefore the court can’t conclude that his rights were considered.
Immediately after the decision a local state legislator called for a House investigation of Judge Joyce. Rep. Rocky Miller has now introduced that investigation resolution (HR 5) which includes citations to caselaw and alluding to possible impeachment of Judge Joyce.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Missouri House of Representatives, Ninety-eighth General Assembly, Second Regular Session, requests that the House Judiciary Committee investigate the alleged actions by Judge Patricia Joyce related to the dismissal of charges against Aaron Michael Fisher for two counts of forcible sodomy involving a five-month-old child indicating she acted incompetently and which may constitute an impeachable offense under the Missouri Constitution.
HR 5 makes two references to Joyce as having “acted incompetently.” The state’s constitution provides that “incompetency” is a basis for impeachment.
All elective executive officials of the state, and judges of the supreme court, courts of appeals and circuit courts shall be liable to impeachment for crimes, misconduct, habitual drunkenness, willful neglect of duty, corruption in office, incompetency, or any offense involving moral turpitude or oppression in office.
This marks the third time in the last decade a Missouri legislator has threatened impeachment against a state judge for a ruling.
- In 2008 Rep. Jim Lembke sent a letter to Associate Circuit Judge Christine Hutson after the judge ruled against a friend of the representative in a custody matter. The letter included a draft of the impeachment articles he was proposing for the judge’s ouster and a suggestion the judge remove herself from any further proceedings related to the case. The impeachment effort stalled when the Speaker of the House refused to let the impeachment effort proceed.
- In 2011 articles of impeachment were filed against a state judge nominated for a federal judgeship. The articles (HR 3102) accused Judge John Ross of “judicial activism” and racial discrimination in a case involving the Northeast Ambulance and Fire Protection District. Ross had put the District’s finances under court control after alleged improper payments by the District’s board. The district’s former attorney, Elbert Walton Jr., was the father of Rochelle Walton Gray, the Missouri House Representative that authored HR 3102. Judge Ross was confirmed to the federal court on a voice vote in September 2011.
HR 5 has been filed but not yet assigned to a committee.