MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -Latino Memphis plans to file a complaint with the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct over anti-immigrant comments posted online by a Shelby County Criminal Court Judge.
Judge Jim Lammey says he meant for his public Facebook posts to be private, and that he's not anti-immigrant.
"I don't know what to say. it's extremely embarrassing," Lammey said.
The Commercial Appeal, who first broke the story, took screen grabs from Lammey’s Facebook page showing a post with a link to a writing by a Holocaust denier who calls Muslim immigrants foreign mud, another post saying Democrats won in the 2018 midterms by getting thousands of illegal aliens to vote, and a post claiming illegal immigrants are responsible for a large number of crimes.
Judges in Tennessee are subject to a lengthy and wide ranging Code of Judicial Conduct.
An ethics opinion from 2012 says judges in the state are allowed to utilize social media but they must do so "cautiously" and "constantly aware of ethical implications."
Supreme Court rules state that judges must "act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary."
Anyone can file a complaint ranging from a private citizen to an attorney or a defendant in a case, and Latino Memphis in a Facebook post acknowledged they will do so.
Steve Mulroy, a law professor at the University of Memphis, says situations like this rarely result in significant disciplinary action, but can damage public trust.
"It can serve to undermine public confidence in the impartiality of that judge or the judiciary in general," Mulroy says.
An April 2019 document from the National Center for State Courts lays out more than a dozen cases nationwide where judges or judicial officers have been disciplined in recent years for social media posts, including one case in California where a judicial officer posted anti-immigrant sentiments, and another from Texas where a judge on social media endorsed the "extermination" of Muslims.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct says as a matter of policy they cannot confirm or deny whether an investigation has been launched.