Free Speech Arrest

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A man jailed for contempt for displaying yard signs critical of a Jackson County judge eventually got the signs back and was able to give the judge some advice from a panel that investigates judges.

Circuit Judge Wallace Haralson said Wednesday he received a letter from the state Judicial Inquiry Commission asking him "to be more judicious in the future toward arresting powers."

The letter stemmed from Haralson's order for Sheriff Mike Wells to arrest Phillip Dean of Skyline last August for yard signs criticizing the judge in a custody battle over Dean's two daughters.

One sign said, “our court system is a joke,” while others were critical of the judge for returning Dean's children to his ex-wife.

The sign saying the "court system is a joke" remains in the yard, but several more were put away yesterday. However, Dean said he plans to put the signs back in his front yard.

Haralson said the commission took no other action and exonerated him.

State law prevents the commission from disclosing its findings.

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