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Chief Justice Suspends Renfer

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RALEIGH — Citing allegations that Wake County judgeSusan Renfer had falsified court records, North Carolina Chief JusticeBurley Mitchell has suspended her. His order may be the first to suspenda judge from official duties while a disciplinary action is being heard.

The N.C. Supreme Court is deliberating a Judicial Standards Commissionrecommendation that Renfer be removed from the bench because of hercourtroom conduct, including records handling.

In a statement, Mitchell said, "While such charges of falsifyingofficial court records are pending against Judge Renfer, I do not believeshe should be given access as a judge to any court records. Therefore...Ihave instructed that she not be assigned any judicial function until theallegations against her are fully resolved."

Renfer, 43, has been embroiled in controversy over her courtroomactions. Her partisans say it is because she was the first Republican inmemory to be elected to the county's district court bench, whichoccurred in 1994. Her criticssay politics has nothing to do with their allegations.

The falsifying charge arose from the cases of two men who appearedbefore Judge Renfer on the same day on separate traffic charges. Theprosecutor told her the men were pleading not guilty and the cases neededto be postponed because the arresting officers were not in the courtroom.

The Judicial Standards Commission's finding said the judge said she sawno reason to postpone the cases, and questioned the men without theirhaving attorneys present, finding them guilty although the state hadoffered no evidence. It also said she falsely indicated on the case filesthat the men had pleaded guilty.

In defending Renfer before the court Thursday, her attorney saidRenfer's actions would probably have been reversed on appeal, and that thecases had been ultimately dismissed.

Also Thursday, her attorneys told the state's highest court that thestandards commission had denied her due process by refusing to delay itshearing so that she could get legal help.

The commission said Renfer had known for more than a year she was underinvestigation and that she had five months' notice of the hearing, whichthey felt was sufficient time to obtain a lawyer's services.

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