Judge Isaac Earlean

,

COURT OF THE JUDICIARY CASE NO. 48 AUG 2016

IN THE MATTER OF:
EARLEAN ISAAC
P~obat. Judge of Greene County, A~abama
FINAL JUPGMENT
On August 3 , 2016 , the Alabama Judicial Inquiry
Conunission ( “the Commission” ) filed a complaint with the
Alabama Court of the Judiciary charging Earlean Isaac with
violating the Canons of Judicial Ethics in her capacity as
Probate Judge of Greene County . That same day, the Commission,
with the consent of Judge Isaac, filed a motion to expedite
the determination of the complaint, requesting that this
matter be set for a hearing on August 8, 2016. This Court
granted the motion to expedite .
Pursuant to Rule 10 , Rules of Procedure of the Judicial
Inquiry Commission, t he Commission and Judge Isaac have
jointly moved to resolve the charges of the complaint
follow i ng a public hearing in accordance with Art . VI , § 157 ,
Ala . Const . 1901 (Off. Recomp.). The Commission and Judge
Isaac have waived any right under the requirement of Rule 10 ,
R. P. Ala . Ct . Jud ., that the al ternate – dispute-resolution
hearing be held more than 10 days before any trial set by the

Court of the Judiciary. Further, Judge Isaac has expressly
waived (1) her right under Rule 5, R.P. Ala. Ct. Jud., to file
an answer or other responsive pleading to the complaint; 12)
her right under Rule 8, R.P. Ala. Ct. Jud., to 30 days’ notice
of the date and time for a hearing of the complaint; and (3)
her right of appeal under Art. VI, § 157, Ala. Canst. 1901
(Off. Recomp.).
The complaint alleges, in relevant part, the following:
“1. Judge Isaac was first elected as Probate
Judge of Greene County in 1989. In 2012, she was
re-elected to her fifth term which expires in 2018.
Greene County has only one probate judge.
“2. Judge Isaac violated the Alabama Canons of
Judicial Ethics by presiding over and by failing to
disqualify herself from a case involving the probate
of her father ‘s estate in whi ch she and her siblings
were heirs. Her failure to disqualify and her
participation as a judge in this case resulted in
the following violations: her entering into ex parte
communications with others, including her siblings;
her obtaining waivers outside the court and outside
the presence of all parties or their attorneys; her
notarizing documents that she knew or should have
known would be f iled in a proceeding before her; her
directing the administratrix/her sister as to who
she thought should and should not be included as
heirs ; her directing her attorney to request a
class-action check be sent to the probate office;
her inserting her personal knowledge of facts and
family history into the case; her misus ing her
status as a judge to preempt tasks normally reserved
for the personal representative of an estate; and
her co-mingled status as party and judge, abandoning
her post as an i mpartial arbiter. The potential
damage visited upon the judiciary by the above is
2

significant. ”
The complaint i ncludes several pages of factual
allegations de t ailing the conduct and circumstances that
resulted in this matter being filed . The complaint alleges
four specific charges agains t Judge Isaac .
Charge I alleges :
” Judge Isaac, while serving as a Probate Judge
for Greene County, Alabama , by presiding over a
proceeding in which she was disqualified in t hat her
sis t er was the petit i oner and Judge Isaac and their
siblings were heirs in the probate of her father ‘ s
estate under t he circumst ances described in
Paragraphs 1 through 31 o f this Complaint, violated
[Canons 1 , 2 , 2A, 2B, 2C, 3e(1) , 3e(1) (a) ,
3C(1) (d) (i) , 3e(1) (d) (ii) , and 3e(1) (d) (iii) I … of
the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics .”
Charge II alleges:
” Judge Isaac, while serving as a Probate Judge
for Greene County, Alabama , under the circumstances
described ~n Paragraphs 1 through 34 of this
Complaint , and being admi t tedly unaware of certain
Canons and/or their application , v i olated [Canon s 1
and 3AJ of the Alabama Canons of Judicia l
Et hics .”
Charge I II alleges:
” Judge Isaac, while serving as a Probat e Judge
fo r Greene County, Alabama, under the circums t ances
described in Paragraphs 1 t hrough 34 o f this
Complaint, and particul arly by enter ing into ex
parte communications with her siblings i n obtaining
her siblings ‘ waivers out side t he court and outside
t he presence of al l pa r ties or their a t torneys , and
by notarizing documents that she knew or shoul d have
known would be filed in a proceeding before her ,
3
violated [Canons 1 , 2 , 2A, 2B , and 3A(4)] . . . of the
Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethi cs .”
Charge IV alleges :
“Judge Isaac, while serving as a Probate Judge
for Greene County, Alabama , under the circums t ances
described in Paragraphs 1 through 34 of this
Complaint , and particularly by ent ering into ex
parte communicat ions wi t h others including her
siblings , by directing her adminis t rat rix/sister as
to who should and should not be included as heirs ,
by directing her attorney t o reques t the Black
Farmers Litigation check be sent to the probate
office , by inserting her personal knowledge of facts
and family history into the case , by misusing her
status as a judge t o preempt t asks normally reserved
for the personal representat ive of an estate , and by
personally obtaining waivers outside the court and
outs i de the presence of all parties or their
attorneys , co~mingled her s t atus as party and judge ,
and abandoned her po~t as an impartial arbiter in
violation of [Canons 1 , 2 , 2A, 2B , and 2C] of
the Alabama Canons of Judicial Et hics .”
According to the joint motion filed with this Court ,
Judge Isaac agrees that the complaint accurat ely st a tes the
facts upon which th i s proceeding is based and that the
Commission could prove by clear and convincing evi dence all
the f acts alleged in the complaint. Specifi cally , Judge Isaac
agrees the Commission could prove the foll owing :
“a. As the only judge in the Probate Court of
Greene Count y , Alabama, Judge Isaac presided over
the administration of her father ‘ s estate in which
she had a financial interest as an heir and in which
her sister was administratrix;
“b . As part of a clear patt ern of similar
4
conduct, Judge Isaac also presided over the
administration of an estate in which her nephew,
Jeffrey Moore, Sr., was a possible heir, and rul ed
on a petition for legitimation filed by her sister ;
” c. Judge Isaac shed any semblance of
impartiality when, prior to the Letters of
Administration even being issued in her father ‘ s
estate, she advised the future administratrix, her
sister, as to who should and should not be
recognized as heirs to the es tate, and continually
discarded any impartiality by consistently taking
pOSit i ons adversarial to the administratrix
throughout the probate of the estate;
“d . Judge Isaac admits a s i ster raised t he issue
of Judge I saac’s potential recusal arising from
issues with Christine Turner ‘ s interest in the
estate;
“e . In a personal letter to a third party, Judge
I saac misused her title as Probat e Judge to give
extra weight to a request for documentation
concerning a debt owed by an heir ‘ s estate;
~ f . On numerous occasions Judge Isaac notarized
document!! and forms concerning proceedings before
her that potentially exposed her to being called as
a witness in those s ame proceedings;
“g. Judge Isaac initial ly claimed she d1d not
breach any Canons by presiding over her father ‘ s
estate;
“h. Judge Isaac admits to having been unfamiliar
with the Canons at the time of the violations;
Qi. Judge Isaac admits to not hav1ng
f ami liarized herself with the Canons after receiving
the Commission ‘ S investigation letter deta1ling the
a lleged violation!! o f the Canons under
inVestigation;
” j. Judge Isaac , a probate judge for 27 years ,
5

should have been familiar with the high standards
expected for judicial conduct; and
“Ie. The actual or potential for
judiciary, to the parties involved,
public’s perception of the fairness of
system was significant. ”
harm to the
and to the
the judicial
Judge Isaac has further admitted that, as alleged 1n the
complaint, she violated numerous provisions o f the Canons of
Judicial Ethics, and she has consented t o the sanctions
r ecommended by the Commission in the joint motion filed with
this Court .
Accordingly, in compl iance with the joint motion filed by
the Commission and Isaac , ORDERS t he fo llowing :
1. Judge lsaac is adjudicated guilty of four charges of
v i olating the Canons of Judicial Ethics as alleged
in the complaint in this IT,atter;
2 . Judge Isaac is to immediately retire and shall never
again seek through election or appointment a
judicial office in the State of Alabama; and
3. Judge Isaac is taxed with the
proceeding includlng t he amount of
by the Commission .
DONE this 8t h day of August, 2016.
6
cos t s
$606.95
of this
incurred
LAURA PETRO
d. /; ~/: AU ….. ,,hA #~
‘-‘$2~N IAJ
7

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