GREENSBORO — A Guilford County judge has been censured by the N.C. Supreme Court for ordering bailiffs to handcuff a mother and place her in a holding cell while she lectured her two teenage children.
Last week, the state Supreme Court agreed with a recommendation from the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission to censure District Court Judge Angela Foster after finding, among other things, she engaged in “inappropriate conduct” and failed to “remain patient, dignified and courteous” while she presided over a hearing almost two years ago.
State court officials said a censure is more severe than a reprimand and issued when there is willful misconduct, but doesn’t warrant a suspension or removal from office.
Foster’s censure stems from a hearing on Jan. 2, 2018, that was scheduled after two boys, both 15-year-old twins, disobeyed a court mandate by refusing to visit their father for six days over their winter break.
But when the proceedings began, the boys’ mother was noticeably absent. Her attorney explained to Foster that it was because she hadn’t received enough notice.
Foster ordered the mother — and her sons — to be in court within 30 minutes, court records said.
“I’m not saying that we’re going through with the hearing, but you need to call your client and tell her to get here because I have a few choice words that I need to say to her,” Foster said to the woman’s attorney.
Foster wanted the twins to also be present to hear that their mother could be jailed over their refusal to see their father, court records said.
But when they arrived in court, they told Foster they would rather their mother go to jail.
According to court records, Foster told the twins: “My children would never allow me to go jail for any reason whatsoever. ... I’m appalled because my children respect me so much they would never allow that to happen.”
Foster then, according to court records, ordered a bailiff to handcuff the mother and place her in a holding cell.
Court documents said that Foster told the twins they should be “ashamed” of their behavior.
While the mother was in a holding cell, Foster began sharing personal stories and disturbing cases that she had presided over where children suffered unfortunate outcomes.
Still, the twins wouldn’t back down.
So Foster informed them that if she had to put their mother in jail for contempt, they would have to spend 60 days — rather than six — with their father.
The boys finally relented.
Foster allowed the mother to come back into the courtroom and said she would reschedule the hearing for a future date.
Foster told the Judicial Standards Commission the reason she held the mother was in an attempt to deescalate the situation and resolve visitation issues without further involving the courts — a ploy she said had worked before.
“(Foster) acknowledges that she specifically intended to have (the mother) handcuffed and taken into custody without a hearing and that this decision was an improper or wrongful use of power of her judicial office,” wrote Mark Davis, a Supreme Court associate justice, in the court order that censured Foster.
The court order also said Foster cooperated during the Judicial Standards investigation, apologized to those involved and agreed with the commission’s findings.