Judge resigns after barring mother from seeing her baby for 14 months over unpaid court fees

Judge John Shirley from Mississippi faced pressure to stand down from local activists

Friday 27 October 2017 18:48 BST
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Former Pearl Youth Court Judge John Shirley
Former Pearl Youth Court Judge John Shirley (Official photo)

A judge who barred a mother from seeing her baby for 14 months over unpaid court fees has resigned.

John Shirley imposed the no-contact order on the woman named only as Miss Jackson at Mississippi's Pearl Youth Court.

Police had pulled her over with a friend and discovered both had outstanding warrants for misdemeanour offences

An officer apparently told the Mississippi Department of Human Services that a child was “abandoned” in the car, even though it was the arrest which caused the pair to be separated.

Judge Shirley then blocked the mother from having any contact with her child until she paid off court-imposed fees.

He also awarded custody to the baby's grandmother, while also blocking the mother from coming having any contact.

It is unclear how much the mother owed, but activists said the order was “tantamount to judicial kidnapping”.

“As a civil rights lawyer in Mississippi, I am no stranger to injustice, but for a judge to prohibit an impoverished mother from having any contact with her baby until monetary payments are made is shocking and repugnant,” Cliff Johnson, director of the Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law, told the Clarion Ledger newspaper.

“Such orders are tantamount to judicial kidnapping.”

After the Center threatened to sue, Mr Shirley resigned from both his Youth Court and Municipal

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