Guilford County District Court Judge Angela Foster has been censured by the North Carolina Supreme Court after having a woman in her court handcuffed and put in a holding cell without a hearing on Jan. 2, 2018.
A censure is more serious than a reprimand but is a violation not considered serious enough to suspend a judge or remove them from office. The North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission recommended the censure to the NC Supreme Court, which agreed.
The facts according to the Judicial Standards Commission and agreed to by Foster were that Foster was holding a contempt hearing to determine whether Kathi Morrow should be held in contempt because her 15-year-old twins had refused to visit their father for six days as the court had ordered.
Morrow’s attorney requested a continuance because of lack of notice and Foster ordered Morrow and her sons to be in her court in 30 minutes.
When they arrived in court, Foster told the twins that their mother could go to jail if they didn’t visit their father. The twins said they would rather have their mother go to jail than visit their father.
Foster said, “my children would never allow me to go to jail for any reason whatsoever … I’m appalled because my children respect me so much they would never allow that to happen.”
Foster then ordered the bailiff to handcuff Morrow and place her in a holding cell. Morrow’s attorney objected because no contempt hearing had taken place. But Foster had Morrow taken to a holding cell.
Foster then told the twins how “appalled” she was at their behavior and talked a lot about her personal experiences as a parent. Foster told the twins that their mother could go to jail for 60 days and they would have to spend 60 days with their father instead of the court ordered six days. The twins relented and Foster had their mother taken out of the holding cell.
Foster acknowledged that having Morrow handcuffed and put in a holding cell was “an improper or wrongful use of the power of her judicial office and that she knew or should have known that doing so was beyond the legitimate exercise or her authority.”
According to the Judicial Standards Commission, Foster “had engaged in conduct inappropriate to he judicial office by making inappropriate comments; by failing to provide every person legally interested in a proceeding, or the person’s lawyer the full right to be heard according to law; and by abusing the contempt power.”
Foster said she had had other people in her court in placed custody without a hearing and had had good results.