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Judicial CP - March 2002

Corpun file 8892


Amarillo Globe-News, Texas, 17 March 2002

Justice of peace chided for ordering paddling

HOUSTON (AP) - The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has reprimanded a Montgomery County justice of the peace for ordering a man to paddle his foster son in the courtroom.

John Robert Kleimann, a longtime judge in Willis who isn't seeking re-election this year, also was admonished for sleeping on the bench "on numerous occasions."

The sanctions were issued March 1 and released publicly Friday.

According to the reprimand, the May 7, 2001, paddling was ordered when Mike Rooney appeared before the judge with his 11-year-old foster son, who had been cited to appear in the court for using profanity at school.

After hearing of the boy's unruly conduct at home and at school and being told that alternative forms of discipline had been unsuccessful, Kleimann said the boy needed a "good butt-dusting."

When Rooney explained that he wasn't allowed to spank any of his foster children, Kleimann indicated he could spank the boy with the court's permission, according to the reprimand.

Rooney then swatted the boy three times in the presence of the judge and court personnel after a deputy constable provided a paddle.

The commission determined that Kleimann acted illegally because he had no authority to order the paddling. The commission found that the judge also failed to maintain proper order and decorum in the courtroom.

The paddling angered child service agencies, but Kleimann at the time defended his order for corporal punishment.

"That was the way I was raised and you were raised, and we were much better kids than the current generation," Kleimann said in a story in the Houston Chronicle's Saturday editions.

The commission also cited numerous incidents, including at least one during a witness's testimony, in which Kleimann had been accused of dozing off.

"Sleeping on the bench erodes public confidence in the judiciary by sending the message that the judge lacks concern for the proceedings at hand and for the judge's duties under the law," the reprimand stated.

Kleimann denied ever falling asleep during a trial.

But in a sworn statement to the commission, he wrote, "It is the judge's opinion that no one should say when the judge may rest during a 24-hour period."

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