Local News

Wake County district judge resigns amid SBI probe

Posted May 18, 2012

— A Wake County District Court judge on Friday submitted her resignation to the governor amid a state investigation into how she handled a dozen DWI cases.

Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens asked the State Bureau of Investigation in February to investigate Judge Kristin Ruth after District Attorney Colon Willoughby wrote to him about "unauthorized scheduling" and "unusual judgments" in the cases.

The defense attorney on record in each case was James Crouch, whom Willoughby accused in January of misconduct.

In addition, Willoughby wrote, Ruth gave limited driving privileges in three cases in which the defendants were not eligible. Those cases were also tied to Crouch.

In a statement released by her attorney Friday, Ruth said she has cooperated fully with the investigation and acknowledged that she signed numerous orders for Crouch that should not have been signed.

"I must admit that, because I trusted Mr. Crouch, I did not read the orders when they were presented to me," Ruth said. Had I read the orders, I would not have signed them."

Her resignation, Ruth said, "is necessary to maintain the integrity of the judicial system."

"I have served the citizens of Wake County in a manner of which I am proud. It was an honor to serve for 13+ years," she said. "Although my misguided trust of Mr. Crouch has resulted in my resignation, it should not reflect on the integrity of the judicial system of Wake County or the state of North Carolina."

Ruth did not have any additional comment, nor did her attorneys, Rick Gammon and Joseph Zeszotarski Jr.

In Crouch's case, Willoughby filed a motion for appropriate relief against him on Jan. 29 in the case of 16-year-old Henry Horne.

Horne, who was arrested Dec. 10, was given a court date of Feb. 13, but Crouch showed up in court on Jan. 20 and told Judge Keith Gregory and an assistant prosecutor that the prosecutor's supervisor agreed to put the case on the court calendar for that day, according to Willoughby's motion.

In North Carolina, only prosecutors have the authority to set trial dates. The assistant district attorney's supervisor, however, never authorized the Jan. 20 court date, Willoughby said.

76 Comments

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  • clintoflannagan May 18, 7:52 p.m.

    While it is true that the first rule of contracts is to read anything before you sign it, the reason that rule is in place in a normal transaction is that one person should not trust the other person to make sure the contract is correct.

    In this situation, Judge Ruth has ever right to trust Crouch and assume that Crouch was handing her documents that were legitimate. If Judges had to read everything, word for word, that lawyers put in front of them the entire Court system would shut down. Judges sign lenthy documents prepared by lawyers, without reading them, all the time. Because of the sheer volume of cases, this is particularly true in Criminal District Court. And 99.99999% of the time everything is ok because Judges know which lawyers they can trust and which ones they can't trust.

    If what Ruth is saing is true, Crouch really duped her and violated her trust. If it is true, Crouch probably has some pretty serious problems with the Bar, and may face criminal charges.

  • Dime High May 18, 7:50 p.m.

    Exactly jjsmith she and most are what is called "In cahoots" she was bought essentially! She had relations of some sort generally and somehow that outweighed what or who was the case about. This type of practice is somehow legal in wake county and probably many other places as well. I am just elated that they got her and hope somehow there is more than just resignation as a consequence for her and whomever else they find practicing law this way. PAY ATTENTION JUDGES to the whole case and see through who's in front of you and obviously READ the case!

  • jjsmith1973 May 18, 7:27 p.m.

    I have seen a lot of both. People getting off on things they shouldn't or pleaing or sentence very lightly. Then I have seen after that a person found guilty of something they shouldn't and sentence heavily. I have also watched a non violent crime get six months in jail for something that harmed no one but themselves. Then a domestic violence or child abuse case, armed robbery get probation, community service, or suspended sentence. It seems totally backwards and sad.

  • judithfergerson May 18, 7:15 p.m.

    Ruth said this""is necessary to maintain the integrity of the judicial system." Sorry but people have already lost faith in the judicial system since it has collaborated so many plea deals and under the table deals so all of them could pad their pockets with pay off monies from politicians and the rich.

  • superman May 18, 7:10 p.m.

    She should have resigned years ago and never should have been allowed a law license. How can a judge sign papers without readig them? The next step is for the state bar to take her license.

  • mautry May 18, 7:05 p.m.

    JUDGES SHOULD BE OUTLAWED

  • Duke _Nukem May 18, 6:49 p.m.

    YES!!!!!! I can't tell you how many times she would let defendants off on charges when the Officers and DA's proved their guilt.

  • jjsmith1973 May 18, 6:26 p.m.

    Also, I think judges have to much power here. People are afraid to question a judge in this area because they are hard accountable to law or the constitution. My father is an officer in my home state, best friends dad is a lawyer there and another friends father is a judge. I had a lot of respect for the law and judicial system. Until I had a friend in this state get railroaded by everyone including his own attorney. Who took his money and ran didn't even to the bare minimum for a defense. Then sitting with him in court watching what was going on. I just couldn't believe what i was witnessing. It was a joke. The system failed him from the officer, to the judge. Seemed they lost all the evidence to clear him. Video and an incorrect police report but didn't matter judge didn't want to even hear the defense. It was a real let down. Especially grown up around a judicial system I believed in and a constitution I fought for. It is a slap in the face kind of.

  • ladyblue May 18, 6:17 p.m.

    When will public official like this be held accountable for their wrong doings like this?!?!
    com_mon_sents

    LOL i say NEVER since it's them who help put the rules in place. no politician is coming out with a bill to lock themselves up or even fire crooked politicans in this country i think. it has to get pretty horrific for them to get them kicked out.

  • jjsmith1973 May 18, 6:09 p.m.

    Comfortably numb I wished they did but district court doesn't allow you to video in the courtroom and I looked around, seems to be no video recording done by the court itself. Unless I am unaware of recording. I was blind to how bad and unfair the system is here until seeing it myself. I honestly thought it was more organized and conducted with more professionalism. It really change my opinion of the judicial system and what I thought of it and has shaken my belief in it. I honestly wonder how fair the system is all around now.

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