Judge Joseph A. Jordon Jr., one of five black judges in Virginia, was censured yesterday by the Virginia Supreme Court for judicial misconduct in a series of criminal proceedings in Norfolk's General District Court.
Jordon, 56, a former Norfolk City Council member and vice mayor, was found by the seven-member Supreme Court to have violated ethical canons by depriving criminal defendants and witnesses of their constitutional rights. The complaint against him was lodged by the state's Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission.
Jordon, who is wheelchair-bound as a result of World War II injuries, remained impassive as the censure order was read in the Richmond Courtroom by a court clerk, Allen L. Lucy. Later, Jordan said he did not plan to appeal the court ruling.
"I tried to pursue a cause -- the cause of common sense of justice. I'll continue to do that," Jordan said in a telephone interview. "It doesn't change my basic point of view." He conceded that he may have made errors in the past, but asserted that any such mistakes were unintentional and had been corrected long before the complaint against him was brought in April.
In censuring Jordan, the Supreme Court rejected a harsher penalty -- that of ordering his removal from the bench. The court also had the option of dismissing the complaint against him. Jordan, a former Democratic Party chairman for the Norfolk area, was elected to a six-year term on the General District Court, the lowest state tribunal, by the Virginia General Assembly in 1977.
In its ruling yesterday, the Virginia Supreme Court said it found "clear and convincing evidence" that Jordan had engaged in all three forms of judicial misconduct alleged in the state investigative panel's complaint.
The commission charged that Jordan unconstitutionally had imposed jail sentences on defendants on the basis of their own testimony and without evidence from any prosecution witnesses. In one such instance, Jordan sentenced a woman to jail for trespassing on a Norfolk-area beach last summer even though no police official was present to state the allegations against her.
In addition, the commission charged that Jordon had imposed jail sentences on persons who had appeared in court solely as witnesses and not as defendants.
The investigative panel also accused Jordan of refusing to set immediate bond for defendants who wished to appeal his sentences, thereby "effectively punishing" them for exercising their rights of appeal. Jordan had delayed setting bond until the end of court sessions, sometimes a period of several hours, the commission said.