Mecklenburg District Judge John Totten has been taken off the bench indefinitely by N.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker.
The chief justice did not cite a reason in her order.
Totten's suspension follows complaints about what sources describe as the judge's inappropriate comments to court personnel. In some of those remarks, the sources said, the judge recounted experiences at a bar and restaurant and described women's bodies and how scantily they were dressed.
Reports outlining Totten's comments to court personnel have been sent to the N.C. Judicial Standards Commission, according to sources.
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Totten, who is in his early 50s and was elected to the bench in 2008, did not return two phone calls from the Observer on Monday afternoon.
Parker's March 26 order was made public Monday by the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts in Raleigh.
"It is hereby ordered that District Court Judge John Totten is placed on temporary suspension, that Judge Totten be relieved of all existing and future assignments and sessions of District Court, and that all such assignments be reassigned to other district court judges ... until further notice," Parker wrote in her order.
A spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts said she couldn't talk about why Totten was suspended. That information, she said, is a personnel matter.
Sources have said that Totten has been ill in recent months. He had been on medical leave from late October until he was allowed to return for half days in early January, a court official said. He has held court only seven days since going on medical leave, the court official said.
Totten, who earns more than $109,000 a year, has never been publicly reprimanded and has never had formal charges filed against him. Paul Ross, executive director of the Judicial Standards Commission, would neither confirm nor deny Monday night if a complaint had been filed against Totten.
The commission, which investigates allegations of ethical violations by judges, can issue private letters of caution, or publicly reprimand judges. It can also recommend that the N.C. Supreme Court censure, suspend or remove a judge.
Totten is not the first Mecklenburg district judge to face troubles in the past year. Two judges have been disciplined.
Last April, the standards commission accused Judge Bill Belk of "willful misconduct" for continuing to serve on corporate boards and for behavior during a confrontation with Chief District Judge Lisa Bell.
Belk resigned in November. A week later, the standards commission recommended that the N.C. Supreme Court remove him from the bench. If that happens, he would be banned from ever holding a judgeship in the state.
Last month, the Judicial Standards Commission reprimanded Judge Timothy Smith for outbursts directed at prosecutors who were trying cases against his wife, a public defender. The commission also reprimanded Smith in April 2009 for misusing the power of his judicial office to help his sister in a domestic violence case.