Local News

Panel Recommends Wake Judge Be Removed

Posted November 26, 1996 12:00 a.m. EST

— Wake County District Court Judge Susan Renfer should be removed from the bench for "prejudicial administration of justice" and claims of willful misconduct in office, according to a state judicial standards panel.

The state Judicial Standards Commission made its recommendation in papers filed Tuesday in North Carolina Supreme Court.

Judge Renfer offered no evidence during a Judicial Standards Commission hearing in October following numerous complaints about Renfer's conduct. Renfer said she wanted a delay in the proceedings to hire an attorney. Her request was denied and she refused to represent herself.

Renfer has responded to the recommendation, and says she didn't get a fair hearing because she didn't have an attorney.

Tuesday afternoon, Renfer talked to WRAL TV5'sMark Roberts. She said she is optimistic in spite of the Commission's recommendationl

Renfer still has a chance to be heard. The ultimate decision on her fate will be made by the state Supreme Court in about 70 days. During the next 30 days, both sides will have the opportunity to file more briefs.

Renfer says she doesn't think things look so bad, and that she'll just keep on working until the matter is resolved.

Complaints allege that Renfer is so obsessed with swift and sure justice that, among other things, she refused to delay hearings and sentenced defendants who didn't have attorneys. Renfer has repeatedly denied the allegations against her. The judge's supporters claim the complaints are politically motivated. Renfer is a Republican, the first ever elected to the Wake District Court, in a courthouse full of Democrats.

More than 30 witnesses testified during Renfer's Judicial Standards Commission hearing. The witnesses said Renfer:

  • Stormed off the bench and grabbed an attorney by the lapels. (Renfer was acquitted of assault by a Superior Court jury. She had argued during that trial that she was only trying to help the attorney with a broken clasp.)
  • Ignored a plea agreement and sent a defendant back to jail.
  • "Berated and badgered" a defendant into pleading guilty.
  • Sentenced other defendants without benefit of attorneys or trials.