Ethics Panel Says Arkansas Judge Should Be Removed for Probation Issue

An Arkansas judge should be kicked off the bench for operating a probation program that handled thousands of dollars collected from people found guilty in his court and for an improper relationship with a defendant, a judicial ethics panel said Monday.

Circuit Judge Willard Proctor violated multiple judicial rules through his work with the Cycle Breakers probation program, said the three-member panel of the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.

The panel also found that Proctor had housed a probationer under his jurisdiction — then sent the man money after he was put in prison.

Proctor testified during a hearing that he sent $450 to Demoreo Davis, whom he had previously placed on probation. The judge also admitted he let Davis stay at his house while on probation.

The panel unanimously voted to recommend that Proctor be removed from the bench. Its decision will be reviewed by the full judicial commission, which will then make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court.

Austin Porter, Proctor's attorney, did not have an immediate comment about the ruling.

The panel found that Proctor helped run Cycle Breakers, which collected fees from defendants placed in the program by the judge. Proctor set up the Cycle Breakers program in 2001.

During an April hearing before the panel, bailiff Richard Day testified that Proctor set financial goals for Cycle Breakers and had once said it could collect $250,000 in a year.

The panel noted that 11 of Cycle Breakers' 15 board members were on felony probation.

The panel's charges accused Proctor of handling Cycle Breakers' finances, saying he received more than $34,000 from it while on the bench. The money went toward such expenses as gifts for speakers at Cycle Breakers meetings, lawn care, food for juries, computers for Proctor's court and sponsorship of a church dinner, the commission's staff said.

The case to go before the full commission by next week, said David Sachar, the commission's deputy director.