By Brandon Moseley

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) removed Jefferson County Judge Nikita Blocton for conduct violating the Canons of Judicial Ethics. Blocton had been suspended by the Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) in May pending a ruling by the court.

Blocton was elected in 2016 and since Jan. 2017 has served on the Tenth Judicial Circuit of Alabama, Birmingham Division, Jefferson County, Domestic Relations Division. The JIC presented 11 witnesses in the trial, which began on Dec. 7. Blocton’s defense presented nine defense witnesses.

Specifically, the COJ found that Blocton had had inappropriate contact with litigants and attorneys appearing in her court. The court found that Blocton engaged in a pattern of inappropriate communications with attorneys, staff, and litigants, often using Facebook aliases and text messages. According to court documents, Blocton engaged in a pattern of abuse of attorneys, staff, and litigants. The court cited instances where it found that Blocton had called one employee a “heifer” and verbally belittled another employee. The court also found that Blocton made employees hand over their cell phones so she could delete evidence that could be used against her in the JIC investigation. Blocton also was found to have made employees work late into the night and on weekends and in some cases had them give her their login information to their work computers. The court found that Blocton also threatened her employees with termination frequently.

Blocton had a backlog of cases and did not have the ability to handle her cases, according to the court.

One of the two judges assigned to deal with Blocton’s cases after Blocton was suspended said that she was “appalled” at the inordinate amount of time that litigants have had to wait for a ruling from Blocton and the other said that it gave a “black-eye" to the judicial system.

The court found that there was no evidence however for the JIC’s claim that Blocton was using drugs or was mentally unstable. The court also rejected the JIC’s charge that Blocton had given an inappropriate campaign contribution to a mayoral campaign.

The Court of the Judiciary ruled nine to zero that Blocton had violated multiple Canons of Judicial Ethics and that she should be removed from the bench in Jefferson County.

The JIC is assigned to investigate complaints against a member of the Alabama Judiciary. If the JIC finds that there is sufficient evidence to bring a charge against a judge, the JIC suspends the judge and argues the case before the nine-member Court of the Judiciary.

Blocton may appeal this decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Alabama Constitution gives the legislature the ability to impeach a judge like any elected official, but as a rule, leaves judicial affairs to the Judicial Inquiry Commission, with the Court of the Judiciary empowered to hear JIC complaints. The section pertaining to the judiciary was updated and modernized after being written in the 1970s by then Chief Justice Howell Heflin (D). A recent complete rewrite of this section that would have, among other things, stripped the legislature of the ability to impeach judges, was rejected by voters in the 2020 election.

To read the Court of the Judiciary ruling:

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