Local News

Former Wake judge reprimanded for role in DWI backdating scheme

Posted December 17, 2012

— A former Wake County District Court judge who pleaded guilty for her role in the backdating of dozens of convictions in DWI cases was reprimanded Monday by the North Carolina State Bar and was ordered by a judge not to seek judicial office again.

Kristin Ruth was indicted this summer in connection with the scheme, which involved altering records to shorten or eliminate license suspensions in driving while impaired cases between 2007 and 2011.

Ruth pleaded guilty in July to a misdemeanor of failure to discharge the duties of her office.

James Crouch, the defense attorney of record in the cases, was sentenced to 12 to 34 months in prison – the harshest punishment possible under state sentencing guidelines – after he pleaded guilty in November to several charges in the case.

In many of the cases in question, investigators said, Crouch charged $750 to backdate DWI convictions, using a legal action to correct clerical errors called a "nunc pro tunc" order.

Ruth admitted to signing approximately 50 orders, prepared by Crouch's staff, without reading them.

Ruth did not speak during Monday's sentencing hearing but testified earlier this month at Crouch's sentencing hearing that she trusted Crouch.

"She's a very honorable person, and she was a great judge, and it's unfortunate that all this happened," her attorney, Rick Gammon, said. "We're very happy with the outcome today, and we're glad it's over."

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens said Ruth's willingness to cooperate completely with investigators was a mitigating factor in his decision to continue judgment on the criminal charge, as long as she does not seek judicial office.

"Your crime, if you want to call it a crime, was trusting without verifying and, therefore, failing to carry out your duties as a gatekeeper, as by law required and the diligence we, as judges, have to maintain in order to make the system work and maintain the integrity of the system," Stephens said.

Kristin Ruth Former Wake judge reprimanded for role in DWI backdating scheme

He noted that she accepted responsibility for her actions, apologized publicly and resigned immediately to "minimize any harm to the reputation" of the justice system – "a very honorable thing to do," Stephens said.

This punishment from the State Bar allows Ruth to keep her law license and to continue practicing law.

"I think the judge, today, took a unique situation and fashioned a unique result, and I think justice was served," Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.

Elizabeth Michelle Daniel, a paralegal for Crouch who was also charged in the case, agreed to participate in the county's first offender program, which includes 75 hours of community service within six months. After completion of the program, the charges against her will be dismissed.

"She provided information that significantly assisted in the case," Willoughby said.

Daniel testified during Crouch's sentencing that she prepared the orders, at Crouch's request, and would have Ruth sign off on them because she was friendly and kind.

"She was always the most accessible judge," Daniel said. "She never got mad about the amount of stuff we were bringing to her."

87 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Oldest First
View all
  • heelzfan4 Dec 18, 4:38 p.m.

    Did anyone really thing a Judge would really punish another Judge? The "reprimand" as they call it was a joke! Maybe this lady could have missed 1, 5, or even 10...but missed over 50 of the forged documents! Come on..... do they really think we are fools? I am really disappointed in Judge Stephenson! She should have lost her law license! If this had been a regular Joe who forged legal documents, he/she would be serving time! Our legal system is a real joke!

  • Sherlock Dec 18, 8:51 a.m.

    No judges in NC will ever go to jail. Only those below that level will do time, that a code between the judges in NC.

  • dollibug Dec 17, 7:51 p.m.

    ***** Best advice you can get is NEVER get involved in the legal system here in North Carolina.

    GOOD ADVICE....BUT....a person does not have to *EVEN GET INVOLVED* to get indicted, tried and convicted in NC....A person can just get *caught up in the system* and be DOOMED FOR LIFE....it has happened a lot here....just ask those who have been found *WRONGFULLY CONVICTED*....they know all about NC Judicial System and just how it works....

  • sunshine1040 Dec 17, 7:31 p.m.

    She abused our trust and I just hope no one suffered loss of life or injury due to her letting people drive drunk

  • rushbot Dec 17, 6:48 p.m.

    She should have been disbarred.

  • Uhavenoclu Dec 17, 6:05 p.m.

    There is only one authority and law and it doesn't come from the physical ego freaks.
    The lady snitch is the one y'all should be angry with along with the prosecutors who let her go.
    The judge here she is no longer allowed to be in any judicial job because she trusted and was suckered by some lawyer.
    The eagles song get over it has a good solution for the lawyers.
    I'd still go to dinner with the judge here and be proud.
    Hey maybe me her and my 2 favorite moms can have dinner together? Lemme go ask them

  • sophiesdad Dec 17, 6:04 p.m.

    Like Judge Ridgeway and the attorney , Judge Stephens slapped a wrist. A nice fraternity to be in !

  • retiredindependentpopo Dec 17, 5:46 p.m.

    Aw good lawd. You're just like all the "haters". Anyone that has more money than me, anyone that has a better job than me, anyone that has a better house than me, anyone that has a more authorative job than mine, etc., etc. etc. condem - condem - condem. STOP WHINNING ALREADY!!!

  • retiredindependentpopo Dec 17, 5:42 p.m.

    You obviously don't know how the court system and courtrooms operate. I don't rememeber her ever saying anyting about "ignorance of the law". She was truthful and admitted to her mistake. Her trust was abused. So, what's your REAL issue?

  • superman Dec 17, 5:39 p.m.

    I dont think Judge Stepens knew enough about the law to know whether she committed a crime or not. He should go back to law school or better yet--learn how to flip burgers. She did this over 50 times. How many times does a person have to do something before they figure out that they are being used and something must be amiss? By any chance is she a blond. Sephens and Willougby will never get my vote again. The judge treated her like a 5 year old child.

More...