- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The Mississippi Bar has filed a formal complaint against the district attorney in Mississippi’s largest county, saying he was disruptive in court and violated several other rules of professional conduct.

The complaint against Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, filed Tuesday and emailed to reporters Wednesday by the state Supreme Court, accuses Smith of interrupting a March 3 hearing and accusing the state attorney general of misconduct in an unrelated investigation.

He seemed “irrational, manic, and virtually out of control,” Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Melvin Priester wrote to the Mississippi Bar on March 14, in a letter that was attached to the complaint. “Further, he could not stand still for any period of time and continuously moved back and forth from his seat, to the podium or up and down in his seat, even as other attorneys were addressing the bench.”

Smith also is also accused of trying to discuss a second case outside of court with a court “special master,” and of holding a news conference accusing a judge of having improper out-of-court communications with other lawyers.

His attorney, James Waide III, told the Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/2anyo5z) and WAPT-TV (https://bit.ly/2a0u3p5) that Smith did not do anything improper.

“Mr. Smith has not made any allegations against any public official without a basis for those allegations,” he told the newspaper. “Any statements he has made are within his freedom of speech rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

If a bar tribunal finds the complaint valid, it could impose sanctions up to disbarment - a penalty that would result in Smith’s removal as district attorney.

He could also lose his job if he is convicted on six misdemeanor charges accusing him of aiding criminal defendants including the one involved in the March 3 hearing.

During that hearing, Smith told Priester that the attorney general’s office didn’t have the authority to prosecute any cases in Hinds County without his permission, unless directed by the governor, or unless there were legal findings that such intervention was needed. Priester later called Smith’s behavior at the hearing “raucous and unprofessional.”

Priester and two other judges have stepped aside from the case against Smith. The third, Judge Larita Cooper-Stokes, did so Wednesday.

The circuit’s fourth judge, Jeff Weill, has ordered Smith temporarily removed from participating in cases on Weill’s docket.

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