Jim Wooten, the judge who presided over traffic court in the troubled city of Brookside, has been suspended from practicing law in Alabama.

The Alabama Supreme Court ordered a 91-day suspension of Wooten’s law license, effective December 21, 2022, according to records obtained by AL.com this week.

And Mike Bryan, the mayor of Brookside, told AL.com that Wooten is no longer the city judge. Wooten resigned last month, a week before his suspension took effect.

“He doesn’t work for the city of Brookside,” Bryan said.

The Alabama State Bar Association investigated Wooten over allegations that she “improperly advanced fees” from a family member’s inheritance when she was a child. The bar association’s disciplinary commission determined that she violated the rules of professional conduct for lawyers, records show.

Wooten, a Birmingham lawyer, became trustee of his late brother’s estate in 2006 when his niece was seven. In 2020, Wooten’s niece filed a lawsuit alleging that her uncle Jim distributed more than $200,000 of her estate to her personal and business accounts.

“Wooten admitted that while the estate remained open, he improperly advanced the estate’s fees without seeking permission from the probate court,” according to state bar disciplinary commission records. “Although the fees had not been earned, Wooten did not place the funds in trust. Wooten also did not disclose to the family that he had taken the fees.”

Wooten previously denied wrongdoing, telling AL.com last year that he is paid an average of $16,200 a year. “By law, I was entitled to be paid from the estate for my services,” he said in a statement to AL.com at the time.

Wooten did not respond to AL.com’s requests for comment for this article.

Roman Shaul, general counsel for the Alabama State Bar Association, told AL.com that because Wooten’s suspension is longer than 90 days, the bar association’s disciplinary board will decide whether to reinstate his license. Shaul said that for suspensions of 90 days or less, the attorney’s license is automatically reinstated.

Wooten’s niece filed the complaint at the bar against her uncle in 2020, the same year she sued him.

Wooten settled the lawsuit, according to court records, and returned the money he had withdrawn from the estate.

Jim Wooten, the judge for the city of Brookside, Alabama, in a photo that was published in the Birmingham News shortly after he was first appointed in 2008.

Jim Wooten, the city judge for Brookside, Alabama, is shown in a photo that was published in the Birmingham News shortly after he was first appointed in 2008.File Photo/Birmingham News

AL.com first reported on the litigation after Wooten came under scrutiny for his role in aggressively prosecuting drivers in Brookside.

Home to 1,253 people north of Birmingham, Brookside became a national example of for-profit policing after AL.com published an investigation last January detailing how Brookside officers intimidated drivers and packed the small city ​​courtroom while using newly discovered money from fines and forfeitures to expand the police force.

Between 2018 and 2020, ticket and forfeiture revenue skyrocketed 640 percent in Brookside, eventually accounting for half of the city’s revenue.

Read more: [Time passes, but the sting of a Brookside arrest endures]

Wooten, 60, had presided over the city court since 2009. He was one of three key figures in the aggressive prosecution of drivers; the others were Mark Parnell, the city prosecutor and attorney, and Mike Jones, the former police chief who resigned in the wake of the AL.com investigation.

After the AL.com report prompted calls for his resignation, Wooten issued an order last April, recusing himself from the pending Brookside cases. But he refused to resign at the time, saying any allegations of misconduct brought against him as a judge are false.

“However, the court is mindful and aware that such allegations, public opinion and outcry could reasonably call into question the impartiality of the undersigned in any case pending before it,” Wooten wrote in his order. “Therefore…in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Brookside Municipal Court, the undersigned recuses himself from any and all cases currently pending before the court as of the date of this order.” .

After Wooten recused himself, the town appointed Marcus Jones to hear those cases. In a statement today, city officials said Jones continues to serve as a judge with Wooten’s departure.

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