NEW ORLEANS – The Louisiana Supreme Court has suspended Shreveport City Judge Sheva Sims for 30 days for willful misconduct related to her wrongfully holding an assistant prosecutor in contempt of court.
Sims, who was first elected in November 2011, was accused of wrongfully holding assistant city prosecutor Katherine Gilmer in contempt of court for an incident that occurred on April 24, 2012 in which Gilmer refused to meet with Sims in her chambers. Subsequently, Sims announced that Gilmer was being held in contempt of court and dismissed 15 criminal cases Gilbert was handling on behalf of the City Attorney for the City of Shreveport. Those cases were later reinstated weeks later at the insistence of the City Attorney.
Writing the ruling on behalf of the majority Supreme Court ruling, Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson said Sims acted out in court on personal grievances she had against Gilmer.
“[Sims] created adverse publicity prejudicial to the administration of justice and caused damage to the perceived independence, integrity, and impartiality of the Shreveport City Court and of the judiciary as a whole,” the Supreme Court’s ruling reads.
According to the Supreme Court, in the lead up to the incident Sims and Gilmer had been opponents in several cases prior to Sims being seated as a judge and Gilmer had been vocal about her disagreement with Sims’ handling of license forfeitures.
The ruling also found Sims had been disdainful of Gilmer’s previous behavior in her court.
“Judge Sims felt that Ms. Gilmer was rude and disrespectful of her judicial authority. According to Judge Sims, Ms. Gilmer flailed her arms and rolled her eyes in response to decisions by Judge Sims. Judge Sims characterized the movements as ‘a big act,’” the ruling says.
According to the Supreme Court, the same day the incident occurred,Sims went so far as to meet with Gilmer’s supervisor, Terri Anderson-Scott, City Attorney for the City of Shreveport, to speak about her administrative issues and problems she was having with assistant prosecutors, but did not specifically speak about Gilmer.
Although Gilmer apologized to Sims after receiving a subpoena saying she was formally being held in contempt of court and Sims dropped the charge afterward, a formal charge of willful misconduct was filed against Sims on Sept. 25, 2013 by the Judiciary Commission of Louisiana for her actions in the incident. That charge was the basis for Sims' suspension.
In instituting a 30-day suspension for Sims, the Supreme Court diverged from the Office of Disciplinary Counsel’s advised 90-day suspension.
The Supreme Court’s move to downplay sanctions has drawn the ire of at least one legal watchdog group.
“Once again, the high court has responded to proof of judicial misconduct with a slap on the wrist,” said Melissa Landry, executive director of Louisiana Lawsuit Abuse Watch. “That’s absurd. We need less leniency and more accountability.”
Sims will serve the suspension without pay and has also been ordered to reimburse $4,691.95 for legal costs.