We like to think that all lawyers, judges, and anyone who has a job to enforce laws is ethical and does not break the law. Unfortunately that is not always the case. The article I read in the ABA Journal recently showed the ugly and unethical side of law by reporting on a judge who admitted to taking a bride to cut a nursing home negligence award. A former Arkansas judge waived indictment and pleaded guilty to a federal criminal information charging him with accepting a bribe for reducing a nursing home negligence verdict from $5.2 million to $1 million. ( http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/95383/family-accepts-reduced-damages-in-greenbrier-nursing-home-case?page=all)
Michael A. Maggio, 53, admitted being “improperly influenced” in the nursing home case by campaign contributions in 2013 for his planned run for an appellate court seat. At that point, he was still a sitting Faulkner County Circuit Court judge. Maggio withdrew as a candidate for an appeals court seat last year. A plea agreement in the the Eastern District of Arkansas case provides more details. (http://www.arkansasbusiness.com/public/maggio.plea.pdf) It says as much as $24,000 in campaign contributions was at issue. However, it is not clear that Maggio’s campaign received all of that money. The maximum sentence in the bribery case is 10 years. However, the plea agreement points to a guideline sentence of 30 to 37 months, although that is not binding, when Maggio is sentenced at a later date, the Arkansas Business article says. Maggio was removed from the bench last year after over online comments made under a pseudonym that included discussion of a confidential adoption of a child by actress Charlize Theron. He is also facing a civil suit, along with other defendants, that alleges campaign contributions influenced his decision-making concerning the jury verdict in the nursing home case.