Commission Recommends Judge Be Removed From Office

By Beacon Staff

The state Judicial Standards Commission has recommended that a Libby judge accused of offering female defendants leniency in return for sexual favors be removed from office.

The commission heard testimony in August from victims, law enforcement officers, court officials and a statistics expert. It found that Lincoln County Justice of the Peace Gary D. Hicks’ conduct with eight of the nine women who filed complaints violated Montana’s code of judicial ethics.

The recommendation reached last week by the five-member commission must be reviewed by the full Montana Supreme Court, which could hold a separate hearing, announce a decision or allow Hicks a chance to respond to the commission’s recommendation.

Hicks has been suspended with pay from serving as a judicial officer pending the Supreme Court review. No date for that review has been set.

During the August testimony, nine woman accused Hicks of soliciting sexual contact in exchange for leniency. Hicks also was accused of making inappropriate comments about the women’s appearance and stopping by several of their homes.

“Based on the evidence and credibility of the nine women, supported by the testimony of others, including the counselors of two of the women … I thought this was a very strong case and I’m not surprised by the outcome,” prosecuting attorney Stephen C. Berg said.

The Associated Press reached a disconnected phone number when trying to call Hicks on Monday night. Attorney Tammi Fisher, who is representing Hicks, also was unavailable for comment Monday evening.

She had produced a statistics expert who said that based on a study of cases from 2005-2008, Hicks did not favor men or woman in a large majority of 32 categories of various offenses.

Earlier this month, Hicks sued Lincoln County, accusing the board of commissioners of persecuting and harassing him between Aug. 20 and Sept. 26.

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages and charges the county with intentional infliction of emotional distress, slander, and the alternative liability under a legal doctrine that states that in some circumstances the employer is responsible for the actions of employees.

Hicks also filed a lawsuit against the county on Aug. 13, arguing that it was responsible for paying his legal fees. Flathead County District Judge Katherine Curtis ruled that Lincoln County must pay those fees and the two sides negotiated a $40,000 settlement.