Byline: David Donovan
A Guilford County district court judge who publicly sounded off in the local media about misconduct allegations leveled against him has now been sent off, having agreed to resign from the bench following a lengthy investigation into those multiple allegations of misconduct.
Mark Cummings agreed to resign from office and never run for a state judicial office again as of Dec. 20, according to a consent order filed by the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission on Oct. 10 and made public after it went into effect.
The JSC initiated a disciplinary proceeding against Cummings in September 2018, and North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley took the exceedingly unusual step of placing Cummings on interim suspension on March 1, 2019.
Ordinarily, the disciplinary proceeding would have remained confidential until it reached a conclusion, but in late 2018 Cummings opted to speak publicly about the allegations against him with a reporter for the (Greensboro) News & Record. At the time, Cummings was standing for election for a promotion to superior court, a race that he ultimately lost by a 69-31 margin.
The consent order contains two separate statements of charges, one filed in September 2018 and another filed in March 2019. The first statement alleged that while Cummings was presiding over a child support enforcement matter, he instructed the courtroom clerk to provide the father with a note on court letterhead, intended for the father's probation officer in Virginia, saying that the father had appeared in court for three days when in fact he had only appeared for a single day.
The allegations also say that during a DWI case Cummings interrupted closing arguments to insinuate, without any evidence, that the state trooper who made the arrest had pulled over the defendant because he was engaging in racial profiling. Even though the defendant had not raised this argument, Cummings found the defendant not guilty despite "overwhelming" evidence that he was driving while impaired, according to the consent order.
In a separate matter, Cummings lowered a bond that had been set by a superior court judge, which he was not permitted to do.
The 2019 statement of charges further alleged that Cummings had provided false or misleading statements about his address to the Guilford County Board of Elections in order to obtain certification of his eligibility to run for the superior...