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Federal Judge to Take Leave

August 31, 2001

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ A federal judge has agreed to take a six-month leave and receive counseling to avoid a hearing for alleged mistreatment of lawyers, including a claim he grabbed an attorney by the lapels during a courtroom altercation.

U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla, 54, admitted to ``improper and intemperate conduct″ toward attorneys. He apologized to the judges assembled in his own courtroom Wednesday and to potential witnesses including Gov. Don Sundquist.

Boyce F. Martin, chief judge of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, said the hearing by a court committee was no longer necessary because the judge acknowledged the ``accuracy and validity″ of complaints about his behavior.

Lawyers had described McCalla as erratic and obsessed with courtroom ethics.

Neither McCalla nor his attorney would comment on the hearing. Details of the alleged misconduct were not available. Reporters were banned from the floor where Wednesday’s proceeding took place.

The exact reason for Sundquist’s appearance also was unclear. But state officials have been displeased with some of McCalla’s actions, including his 1995 order that the state’s mental health commissioner spend time in a state facility for the retarded and disabled until conditions improved.

The 6th Circuit later stayed that order, and Sundquist became openly critical of McCalla.

The settlement ended a nearly two-year battle that pitted McCalla against state and federal attorneys, local lawyers and an Atlanta attorney whom McCalla allegedly grabbed by the lapels earlier this year.

While the judicial panel could not remove McCalla from the bench, it could have recommended harsh measures, including stripping him of his caseload.

McCalla was appointed to the bench in 1992 by then-President Bush. Federal judges are appointed for life and can be removed only by Congress. They are prohibited from displaying personal disfavor of people involved in legal matters before them.

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