Aug. 31, 2007 — After a more than four-month silence, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities released a statement late Thursday on its investigation of complaints filed against V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall.
The notice, however, does not name Kendall. Sen. Ronald Russell, commission chairman, said that the omission was "deliberate."
"The commission has a lot of complaints, and at this stage we aren't naming names," he said.
Russell said in May, after receiving the first complaint against Kendall, a 53-page document filed by Judicial Watch of Washington, D.C., that the commission in the last 10 years had seen fewer than 10 complaints.
Kendall has been accused of repeatedly releasing those arrested for violent crimes back into the community with little or no bail.
In its brief statement, the commission said, "The Virgin Islands Commission on Judicial Disabilities informs the public that at its most recent meeting, its investigator made a preliminary report concerning pending complaints. The information and documents provided by the investigator are under careful review. At its next meeting in early September 2007, the commission will decide whether to proceed to hearings, or whether to render written decisions."
Russell would not reveal what a hearing would involve, or under whose aegis it would take place, nor would he reveal the identity of the investigator. "We just want to inform the public that we have been working expeditiously and we're proceeding to deal with this matter with the right and fair process in a just manner," Russell said Thursday evening. "It's a sensitive issue. The report was turned in this week."
The five-member commission has four sitting members: Russell, Andrew Capdeville, Robert O'Connor and local labor leader Luis "Tito" Morales. One seat is vacant. Members to the commission are appointed by three entities: two by the governor; two by the Senate president and one by the V.I. Bar Association president. The current vacancy falls under the aegis of the Senate president.
Asked what would happen should there be a tie vote on the case, "In that event, we follow Roberts Rules of Order," Russell said. "I suppose that would create an issue."
He said he had informed Senate President Usie Richards of the vacancy. "He is reviewing the person or persons to be considered," Russell said.
Community activists are not pleased with the commission's statement.
Marie Ferreras, who organized a public demonstration in April calling for Kendall to step down, has pressed Russell about the commission's proceedings in the Kendall case.
In May, Ferreras filed a motion in V.I. Superior Court asking that commission member attorney Andrew Capdeville recuse himself from the commission in this investigation, based on a phone call she said Capdeville had made to her, defending Kendall. (See "Commission Member Asked to Recuse Himself in Judicial Review of Judge Kendall".
Ferreras said Thursday that she had spoken with Russell earlier in the day, and he had told her of the commission's statement. "He told me a decision has been made on my motion for recusal and that I would be getting a letter on that shortly. He said the commission had been acting expeditiously," she said.
"I'm very disappointed that the wheels of this situation are grinding so slowly. Is four months 'expeditiously?' Especially when the judge keeps releasing violent predators into the community during that time."
Mary Mingus, Women's Coalition of St. Croix executive director, who with the V.I. Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council filed a second complaint against Kendall's judicial decisions, was incensed by the commission's lack of progress. She said she had not received a copy of the commission's statement, but she was aware of it.
"If the community has no recourse on a judge that has gone so far off course, where are we?" Mingus said Thursday.
"[The Coalition] gathered our evidence, we submitted the grievances, we followed all the procedures of the law set down by our Legislature. The community deserves an answer from this commission. "Our hope is to protect the victims in our community, the innocent persons," Mingus said.
"Judge Kendall has released persons who have offended and re-offended into the community, putting us at risk."
After releasing the statement, Russell adamantly defended the commission's procedures. "We have rules and regulations. The investigator came back with lots of additional information in addition to what was originally in the complaints. We must follow due process," he said.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.