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Terry DeVine column: McGuire should leave the bench

If even a handful of the allegations made earlier this week against Judge Michael McGuire are true, then "His Honor" has some serious issues when it comes to the female of the species.

If even a handful of the allegations made earlier this week against Judge Michael McGuire are true, then "His Honor" has some serious issues when it comes to the female of the species.

Seven women who worked in the court system brought charges against the 62-year-old McGuire last November. A four-member panel of the North Dakota Judicial Conduct Commission heard 14 specific charges made by the women in a packed public hearing at the Fargo Holiday Inn.

McGuire, one of eight judges in the East Central Judicial District, which serves Cass, Steele and Traill counties, and a former chief judge, denies the allegations, some of which are rather eye-popping.

He accused the court employees of getting together and trumping up a list of charges that are "vindictive and mean-spirited."

I've been aware of several similar incidents over the years and followed them, and no one is ever going to convince me -- or most of you -- that a group of women is going to get together and fabricate a laundry list of charges like this. It just doesn't happen.


In most cases, where there's smoke, there's some fire. Some of the more egregious charges against McGuire were brought by Deputy Court Clerk Linda Weaver, including one in which McGuire allegedly asked if he could sleep with her.

McGuire says Weaver had a beef with him because he didn't appoint her acting clerk of courts, a position she felt she deserved, when he was presiding judge. He says Weaver's allegation is a lie.

The women say McGuire, a judge for 24 years, has a history of rude and inappropriate behavior toward the court's female employees.

Prior to the hearing, McGuire, who calls himself "a family man of high moral character and integrity," wrote, "Even in the presence of the most prudish, strait-laced or overmodest women, the worst that any of the allegations could be considered is insensitive, foolish, silly, ridiculous or tasteless."

Earlier, McGuire apologized for conduct, whether "intentional or unintentional," that "may have caused anyone to be actually offended."

Describe an "overmodest" woman for me, Judge McGuire. What century are you living in? I've got news for you: No woman -- none -- should be subjected to sexual harassment of any kind in the workplace, and that includes remarks they deem to be inappropriate.

McGuire asks: Where's the proof? No formal complaints were filed, even though it was fairly common knowledge that these sorts of things were going on, according to the women.

First, there was no formal complaint process -- there now is -- and, second, it takes an unbelievable amount of courage for a woman to lodge a complaint against her boss in situations like this. Most simply suffer in silence.


The laundry list of arrogant men in positions of power who pull these kinds of shenanigans is long and utterly disgusting. It's even more disgusting when someone like McGuire engages in this kind of behavior, no matter how minor.

A judge should be above reproach. How can we expect the public to respect the legal process when one of its representatives engages in this kind of behavior? An arrogant individual who flexes his muscles in this manner is the very worst kind of leader, and the behavior should not be tolerated.

The judicial conduct panel will have 60 days to report to the Supreme Court after transcripts of this week's testimony are completed. The high court could discipline McGuire or dismiss the charges.

And don't tell me McGuire's colleagues, at least some of them, didn't know these inappropriate remarks weren't being uttered on occasion. These people don't work in a vacuum.

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven could help to ensure this kind of inappropriate activity is shortstopped in the future on the East Central Judicial District bench by appointing Fargo attorney DeAnn Pladson to fill the unexpired term of Judge Norman Backes, who will step down May 31.

Pladson has long been an advocate for women, those who are subjected to both physical and verbal abuse. I dare say these sorts of things would not be allowed to continue on Pladson's watch. Her appointment would also add some needed gender equity to the court.

Not surprisingly, McGuire already said he will retire at the end of the year. If he had an ounce of class, he'd take a walk right now.

Readers can reach Terry DeVine at (701) 241-5515 or tdevine@forumcomm.com

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