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Special judges to handle Maggio’s caseload

Arkansas Supreme Court Justice Jim Hannah issued an order Monday directing that special judges take over Circuit Judge Michael Maggio’s cases.

The order read:

“The supreme court has been advised that court operations in the Twentieth Judicial Circuit, Division 2, have been disrupted, and that the orderly administration of justice has been severely compromised, due, in part, to recusal issues.”

The order goes on to state: “All judges are afforded the rights provided in amendment 66 of the Arkansas Constitution, and this order should not be deemed as a judgment about, or a determination of, any issues that are or could be pending before the Arkansas Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission.”

While the order is in effect, Maggio will not hear any cases. However, the Supreme Court ruling does not remove Maggio from the bench and he apparently can continue to draw his annual salary of $138,000. Maggio, 52, is a circuit judge in Van Buren, Faulkner and Searcy counties.

Earlier this month Maggio ended his campaign for a seat on the state Court of Appeals after acknowledging posting inappropriate comments under the pseudonym “geauxjudge” on a Louisiana State University fan message board. Some of the “geauxjudge” comments concerned an adoption by an actress in Faulkner County that was supposed to be confidential under state law, while some others were of a sexist or racist nature. Blue Hog Report, a Little Rock-based blog, uncovered the comments and made the connection to Maggio.

The state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission has confirmed investigations into Maggio, including violations of campaign contribution rules. The Supreme Court order has no bearing on those investigations.

The judicial panel is investigating contributions Maggio received from political action committees linked to a nursing home chain that a jury recommended pay a family $5 million in a negligence lawsuit. Martha Bull, 76, died in 2008 at the Greenbrier Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Maggio, saying the court was “shocked” by the award, reduced the amount to $1 million. The family has now filed an ethics complaint against Maggio.

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