Judge resigns after blocking mother from seeing her baby over late court fees

A Mississippi Youth Court Judge resigned following a complaint accusing him of prohibiting a mother from seeing her newborn child for 14 months while she paid off her court fees, according to the The Clarion-Ledger.

“As a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi, I am no stranger to injustice,” said Cliff Johnson, who filed the complaint against Pearl Youth Court Judge John Shirley. “But for a judge to prohibit an impoverished mother from having any contact with her baby until monetary payments are made is shocking and repugnant. Such orders are tantamount to judicial kidnapping.”

The mother, identified as “Mother A” in court documents, was arrested in August 2016 for outstanding warrants for misdemeanor violations after being pulled over by law enforcement in the city of Pearl. The officer at the scene deemed the child “abandoned,” despite that the separation of the child from the mother was due to the arrest.

Judge Shirley awarded custody of the child to the grandmother and prohibited the baby’s mother from having any contact with the child until all court fees had been paid.

An order issued on Wednesday reversed Judge Shirley’s ruling, returning custody of the child to the mother. The Youth Court was also closed after a unanimous vote.


Steven E. Johnson is a journalist who covers social injustice and political issues. You can contact him at stevejlive at gmail dot com. Follow on Twitter: @stevenjtweets