‘Disregard for the law’; Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims facing possible suspension after admitted bullying

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A Pulaski County Circuit Judge faces suspension from the bench state after he admits to bullying and intimidating at least three female attorneys in his courtroom.

According to a public discipline order filed Friday by the Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission, Judge Barry Sims showed a “disregard for the law.”

“Bullying is a harsh word, but everyone knows what it means,” said Executive Director of the commission, David Sachar. “You’re not going to be called a bully for one incident. It’s a pattern. And in this case, the judge continued to treat people in such a way that it resulted in multiple complaints and this sanction.”

The order cites three dates from 2019 when Judge Sims is accused of acting inappropriately.

During a hearing on April 15, 2019 the order states that Judge Sims was, “impatient, discourteous and rude to a public defender.” The order goes on to say Judge Sims left the bench while the same public defender was questioning a witness.

“Your tone of voice was curt. Your facial expressions, demeanor and actions alarmed other attorneys and members of the gallery,” Sachar wrote in the order.

The commission believes Judge’s Sims’ actions may have had a chilling effect on other people, and may have prevented them from speaking up.

“It also had an impact on the audience, it had an impact on the other criminal defendants who were in the court. It had an impact on the other attorneys who witnesses this particular behavior,” said Deputy Executive Director of the commission, Emily Abbott. “We want to make sure that they’re treated with the dignity and the respect that they should be treated with when they appear for court.”

Judge Sims and his attorney declined to comment but accepted a settlement with the state to avoid trial.

Under the settlement Judge Sims would be suspended for 30 days without pay as along as he follows several remedial measures over the next year. If he does not follow the remedial measures, he will face another 60-day suspension.

The remedial measures include: taking a class on mindfulness, patience, or civility, hiring a counselor or life coach, having no more complaints that result in public charges or discipline, and be on notice that future complaints concerning intimidation, bullying, retaliation or harassment will be investigated.

The suspension must be approved by the Supreme Court. The Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission says it will start that process.

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