RALEIGH — May 16, 1996 - 7:30 a.m. EDT
After making headlines by evicting a woman from court for wearing shorts, Judge Susan Renfer appears to be headed for more controversy.
The Wake County judge has been summoned to appear before the Judicial Standards Commission, a panel which investigates complaints against judges. On Wednesday, the commission filed a 7-page complaint against Renfer, alleging "willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute."
The recent case involving the woman in shorts is not mentioned in the complaint. This one alleges that in spring 1995, Renfer told a deputy clerk of court that "things were messed up in the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court office because of all the blacks who work down there".
The complaint also alleges that, after an April 1995 court appearance, Renfer stated to an individual that "women in domestic violence situations most often provoked the men's violence, and if the women would be more reasonable, there would not be much violence."
Dennis Priest, a Renfer supporter, says the charges in the complaint are "ludicrous." He says the complaint is politically motivated. In 1994, Renfer became the first Republican judge in Wake County in decades. Listen toaufile.
After a hearing, the commission will decide if there is enough evidence to support the complaint. At that time, the panel will make one of three recommendations to the N.C. Supreme Court. It could recommend that she be removed from the bench, that she be formally censured, or that the charges be dismissed.
N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Burley Mitchell says he knows nothing of the Renfer investigation, but that he knows the commission is beyond reproach. He himself has appointed three commissioners, all of them Republicans.
The commission is a panel of seven people, Democrats and Republicans. It has historically dismissed about 85 percent of the complaints it has reviewed.
This one, however, is the thickest such document the panel has ever received.
Renfer issued a press statement by fax, but told WRAL-TV5's Jim Axelrod by phone that she was not prepared to make any further comment