May 4, 2007 — A joint complaint against V.I. Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall was submitted Friday to the V.I. Commission on Judicial Disabilities. The complaint, the second made public this week, was filed by the Women's Coalition of St. Croix and the V.I. Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Council.
Mary Mingus, coalition executive director, said, "We are requesting the removal of Judge Kendall [from the bench] because of his violation of the American Bar Association judicial canons and the violation of the V.I. Code in terms of a judge's failure to perform judicial duties in a responsible manner."
She said the complaint was sent express mail to the commission and a copy was hand-delivered, as well. "They need to hold a hearing within five days of receiving a complaint," Mingus said, "and we trust that will happen. It is our hope that the commission will perform their duties in the best interest of the Virgin Islands."
Mingus said, at this time, she would hold off releasing a copy of the complaint to the public.
Lynn Gittens Spencer, of the sexual assault council, attended the public protest against Kendall on St. Thomas in April. She came from St. Croix with five sign-carrying members.
She said then, "We are expressing our concern. Crime victims do have rights. Kendall is forgetting the victim's rights. There is unequal handling of justice in his courtroom in domestic violence, sexual assault and other criminal cases. I'm happy St. Thomas and St. John spoke out, and I hope the governor notes the protest and hears the horns at Government House."
A formal 53-page complaint against Kendall's conduct on the bench was sent April 26 to the V.I. Commission on Judicial Disabilities by a judicial watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. (See "Judicial Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Judge Kendall").
Kendall was appointed by then Gov. Charles W. Turnbull. Although he was confirmed by the 25th Legislature, it was not without a fight. The V.I. Bar Association strongly objected to his appointment, and his confirmation hearings in both the Rules Committee and the full Senate were contentious.
At the Rules Committee hearing in August 2003, Kendall revealed a position that he has subsequently acted on in court. In answer to a question from Sen. Celestino White, Kendall said he doesn't believe in mandatory minimum sentencing, because "it removes the discretion of the judge … to consider mitigating circumstances."
In court in January, Kendall said he thought the minimum sentence he was forced to impose on convicted rapist Ashley Williams was too long and that members of the media and victims' rights advocates were more dangerous than the man who forcibly sodomized a homeless man with a wooden chair leg (See "Kendall Gives Rapist Minimum Sentence, Says Victim Was Lying").
Chaired by Sen. Ronald E. Russell, the Commission on Judicial Disabilities has four sitting members. Other members include attorney Andrew Capdeville, Robert O'Connor and local labor leader Luis "Tito" Morales.
Since the death of St. Croix businessman Mario de Chabert in 2001, the commission has functioned without a full complement of members.
Earlier in the week, Russell said he had not received the 53-page document from the Judicial Watch group. He has not returned calls to the Source Thursday or Friday.
Under the rules and procedures of the commission, a grievance or complaint should have a preliminary review not more than five days after receipt of the complaint. After preliminary review, the commission is to issue an initial response to the parties. After that, the commission may further investigate the complaints, schedule a hearing, or provide any relief as is necessary.
The V.I. Code requires four members of the commission to concur in order to retire or remove a judge.
Russell was one of four dissenting votes in Kendall's nomination. The others were Sens. Lorraine Berry, Emmett Hansen and Usie Richards.
Kendall has two remaining years in his six-year term.
Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.