LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – An Arkansas judge at the center of a nearly year-long FOX 16 News Investigates investigation has been disciplined by the state.
The Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission (JDDC) announced the sanction against Pope County District Court Judge Don Bourne on Monday.
The JDDC announced that it is asking the Arkansas Supreme Court to suspend Bourne for 15 days without pay.
David Sachar is the Executive Director of the JDDC, he said Bourne has agreed to never run for judicial office again.
“He’s essentially removed from the bench at the end of his term is limit the time he’s going to be on the bench while he’s extremely monitored,” Sachar said.
Bourne must install audio recording devices in his courtroom that JDDC can monitor.
Security camera footage obtained through the state’s public record law captured Bourne telling a man in his court that a migraine wouldn’t be the only place hurting him when he gets to prison.
He was also heard asking an apparent domestic violence victim if she can understand English.
In the days after the camera footage was obtained, there were calls on the Arkansas Supreme Court to suspend Bourne while JDDC investigated, however, the state’s highest court did not get involved.
Bourne has been the subject of FOX 16 Investigates Denied series since last October when FOX 16 News uncovered the judge appointed the public defender 48 times between 2012-2020. The appointed cases are sharply different from other counties with a similar population.
Bourne said last year that about 95% of people who go to district court plead guilty.
“They want their cases to be over with, and the[y] do not ask for an attorney,” he wrote at the time.
Bourne said that if a public defender is requested, he always tries to make the right decision based on the information submitted.
The state’s discipline requires Bourne to follow guidelines on public defender appointments and FOX 16 has learned he’s already changed the way his court keeps those records.
The state says Bourne harmed the integrity of the bench. He admits the comments made were inappropriate and promises to do better, according to the state.
Bourne has been on the bench for the last two decades.