Circuit Judge Michael Maggio has agreed to sanctions with the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission that would have him suspended from his position for the rest of his term and then prohibited from holding a judicial office thereafter.
The commission released its 21-page report about Maggio on Wednesday after an investigation that started amid controversial online postings he admitted authoring and questions over campaign contributions he accepted.
Under the terms of the sanctions, which still have to be approved by the state Supreme Court, Maggio would be suspended with pay and then permanently removed from office effective Dec. 31, 2014. That's also when his term as judge is set to expire, but commission Executive Director David J. Sachar noted the "removal from office is permanent and prohibits you from holding a judicial office in the state of Arkansas in the future."
Though the state's high court earlier stripped Maggio of his caseload, he still remained a judge.
Sachar said his office would submit the case to the Supreme Court for approval Wednesday, but it's not clear when that body would make a final decision.
Sachar wrote in the commission's report that Maggio's online postings, which included violating the confidentiality afforded to actress Charlize Theron's adoption and comments about sex acts, bestiality and divorce, give "rise to legitimate concerns that bias would overcome fairness and due process for a large number of potential litigants and their attorneys."
"The volume of your comments result in much more than a problem of taste, decorum or personal opinion," Sachar wrote. "It adds up to someone who demonstrates that he is unfit for the bench."
In a statement, Maggio said he accepted the sanctions "with mixed emotions" and that he was proud of his service.
"It was my hope and desire that I would finish serving ... in my elected capacity," he wrote. "I, along with my staff, treated all with courtesy, respect and dignity. In none of the over 45,000 cases was there a single instance of any bias or prejudice in my actions, decisions, or words."
Maggio came under fire beginning in March, when he was revealed as the poster who anonymously made the online comments.
He withdrew that month from a race for the Arkansas Court of Appeals and apologized for the postings. Soon after those revelations, questions arose about contributions Maggio's campaign accepted from several political action committees financed largely by businessman and nursing-home owner Michael Morton, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Days after some of those donations were made, Maggio cut a jury-awarded $5.2 million judgment against one of Morton's nursing homes to $1 million.
Less than three weeks after his apology, the state Supreme Court relieved Maggio of his caseload, noting the "orderly administration of justice" had been "severely compromised."
The sanctions agreed to by the commission and Maggio are tied to cases involving his online postings. The agreement, meanwhile, made "moot" a separate Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission case involving the campaign finance issues and the jury award, the report said, noting that investigation "was going to take considerably more time to investigate." The report says that case was then "concluded with 'no finding.'"
In April, former state Sen. Gilbert Baker resigned from his position as executive assistant to UCA President Tom Courtway amid questions about his ties to the PACs. The Democrat-Gazette reported last month that Morton said under oath that the contributions he made to the committees were sent to Baker's Conway home.
In June, Maggio paid a $750 fine to settle a complaint filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission after the body found probable cause that Maggio accepted contributions above the legal limit of $2,000 from a single person, the newspaper reported.
An investigation by the FBI was said to still be ongoing then.
Read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for more.