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Athena Mutua

A travesty is underway in St Louis, Missouri involving Associate Circuit Judge Barbara Peebles. Judge Peebles is a good judge - thoughtful, balanced, and fair. 

But on September 28, 2012, the State’s Judicial Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline recommended removal of Judge Barbara Peebles from the bench. A black woman, Judge Peebles, has sat on the bench for twelve years. Until last year, not a single ethical complaint had been lodged against her in her entire legal career; as an assistant city counselor, prosecutor, the first commissioner of the St. Louis Drug Court, or as a judge. Thus, one would expect the violations and findings that led to the recommendation of removal to be extraordinary. 

To many of us attorneys reading the case, all the findings put together, barely constituted grounds for a public reprimand, with a temporary suspension as a long shot, representing a bad year in the overall context of a good legal career. But removal of a sitting judge with no prior complaints on her record?? Are these people serious? Even more disturbing, however, is the fact that the poorly written Commission report, as well as the testimony, only provided a hint of the real story behind this extraordinary action. That is, the “who, what, where, why and how of this case, especially the "who," the “how,” and the "why," are largely absent. What is going here? 

This essay examines the context, setting and players in this drama, as well as, the Commission's findings. It then turns to the back story or what the essay argues is the real story of this case. It is a story involving petty politics, power, race and gender. 

The Supreme Court of Missouri is scheduled to hear arguments regarding the recommendation of removal on this January 3, 2013.