Thursday, May 9, 2013
The state Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a former Dorchester County magistrate Wednesday.
Arthur Bryngelson was suspended in December 2011 while the Office of Disciplinary Counsel investigated his conduct.
Bryngelson resigned shortly thereafter, so a public reprimand is the harshest punishment available to the court.
He also agreed he wouldn’t seek or accept another judicial position without getting written permission from the Supreme Court, according to the order.
Bryngelson hadn’t had a chance to see the order when he was reached Wednesday. There’s much he could say, he said, but he’d stick to “no comment.”
Former state Sen. Mike Rose nominated Bryngelson, along with several others, in 2009 to fill out the magistrate’s court.
He had previously owned a construction company and served as chairman of the county Republican Party.
When Bryngelson was suspended, he was in holdover status. His term had expired in June, and Rose said he didn’t want to re-nominate him while he was being investigated but also didn’t want to replace him because Bryngelson was fighting the allegations.
In Wednesday’s order, the court outlined five incidents that violated the code of judicial conduct.
In the first incident, Bryngelson set a defendant’s bond at $10 and then paid it himself.
In the second incident, Bryngelson signed a paper stating a victim in a felony property damage case would drop charges if the defendant would pay $1,178.80. The defendant was later indicted. According to the court, Bryngelson “submits he felt that he signed the paper as a witness to the parties’ exchange for restitution but now recognizes that he should not have signed the paper as it could give the defendant the impression that the matter was dismissed by him.”
In the third incident, Bryngelson allowed a defendant to plead guilty without notifying the arresting officer or victim of the proceeding. Bryngelson said the defendant served the maximum sentence.
In the fourth incident, the court record of a driver who was ticketed for expired tags was changed to “not guilty” from “guilty” and the judge of record was changed to indicate Bryngelson presided.
The Supreme Court said a municipal court judge said he spoke to Bryngelson and asked him to dismiss the matter after the driver renewed her tags.
Bryngelson said he didn’t remember that particular case but his actions “were consistent with how other defendants with the same charge are treated.”
In the final incident, Bryngelson declined to impose a restraining order against a police officer and said a restraining order could have a “serious effect on the officer’s career.”
“While there is no indication respondent knew the officer in question, respondent acknowledges it was improper to apply a beyond a reasonable doubt standard,” the opinion said.