Circuit judge censured over blood donations

Published 11:31 pm Thursday, January 21, 2016

MONTGOMERY — A state panel has publicly censured an Alabama judge who told criminal defendants who couldn’t pay their fines to either donate blood or go to jail.

Documents show the Alabama Court of the Judiciary ruled Thursday that Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins violated judicial canons with the remarks, delivered in a crowded courtroom in Perry County last September.

Wiggins’ fourth circuit includes Dallas, Bibb, Hale, Perry and Wilcox counties.

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The judge didn’t immediately return a telephone message to The Associated Press seeking comment. But the panel’s ruling says Wiggins acknowledged the misconduct when confronted over his actions.

The decision says 41 people who had cases on the judge’s docket gave blood after his remarks. A mobile blood bank was parked outside the courthouse at the time.

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center filed a complaint over Wiggins’ actions, which were recorded by a defendant in court.

“The Judicial Inquiry Commission is sending a clear message that the constitutional rights of the poor must be respected in Alabama courtrooms,” said Sara Zampierin, SPLC senior staff attorney. “No one should be forced to give blood or go to jail simply because they cannot afford to pay their court fines and fees.”