A judge must commit something outrageous - or become the focus of national and international media frenzy - to be even considered for discipline.
In Georgia, that has been especially so, and especially when, until lately, the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the allegedly "independent" watchdog of judicial behavior, was headed by Brenda Weaver, who herself is now the focus of an FBI investigation for her outrageous shenanigans.
Weaver only resigned as Chair of the Commission after over a month of media storm describing her targeting of a publisher and an attorney for seeking public records of her misconduct with felony charges (since dropped) with the help of her own former law clerk-turned prosecutor Alyson Sosebee.
And, the Commission did not seek to suspend Weaver (which it has the power to do) immediately as the news appeared of her instigating a felony proceeding, through her former law clerk, for as much as seeking access to public records of her misuse (theft) of public funds out of the court operating account.
Instead, Weaver's deputy resigned instead of suspending her - before Weaver resigned herself.
And Weaver is still not suspended by the Commission pending investigation as of now, even though the "independent" Judicial Qualifications Commission does have such power -
- unlike Judge Olu Stevens who was suspended in the State of Kentucky pending investigation of him fighting racism in the courtroom,
- unlike Chief Judge Roy Moore who was suspended in the State of Alabama pending investigation and prosecution for disobeying a particular precedent of the U.S. Supreme Court - just one precedent out of many that judges are regularly disobeying without any consequences.
Judge Caldwell just resigned in 2010 turning in a "handwritten letter" that it is "time to visit his grandkids and maybe practice law".
I remember another judge - a New York judge Carl F. Becker - providing the exact same reason, spending time with this granddaughter, for his abrupt resignation in July of 2015, after a bitter fight for election in 2012 where Becker defrauded voters into believing in his pre-eminent competency (I would not say re-election, because there is no competent evidence that Becker was elected in 2002, and, when I raised the issue of Becker's legitimacy in a motion to vacate his decisions, Becker had the local Republican Election Board Commissioner file a false certification of the 2002 elections in 2011 when all original documents from that election was gone and there was nothing to certify it from, had me sanctioned for the motion, and had my law license suspended without a hearing based on those sanctions, for questioning Judge Becker's legitimacy).
Yet, after Becker resigned - allegedly to spend more time with his granddaughter - who lived out of state according to Becker's public claims to attorneys and parties in the courtroom - Becker continued for a long while to linger around the courthouse, keeping his judge license plates on his car in violation of state law, using the employees-only parking space behind the courthouse and even wearing the black robe and illegally swearing in his own successor, a new judge, the former Delaware County prosecutor Richard Northrup - illegally because at the time of swearing in Carl Becker was only a private attorney and had no authority to either wear a black robe, or to swear in new public officials.
The report of the Commission for Judicial Conduct for the year ending December 31, 2015, indicates that 18 judges resigned that year pending investigation, and only 2 of those judges were under formal charges.
No formal charges against Carl F. Becker can be found on the site of the New York State Judicial Conduct Commission, but the speed with which Becker left his coveted seat indicates that it is very likely that Becker is one of the 16 judges who resigned before formal charges were filed - to preserve their law licenses and their pensions.
Also, the fact that Becker was not immediately picked up and made a partner by any law firms on his "retirement" and continues to this day to be a private licensed attorney without an address (despite a requirement that a licensed attorney must publish either his business address, or a home address as part of his mandatory registration process)
says a lot - that the stench of Carl Becker's reputation prevents his employment in any self-respecting law firm.
While Judge Becker does not appear to act - at least openly - to go against the Commission for Judicial Conduct that likely caused him to have so much free time on his hands, the other grandkid-loving former judge who resigned to "spend time with his grandchildren" and to "maybe" practice law - the Georgia Judge Johnnie Caldwell - is not that forgiving.
Judge Caldwell quickly resigned in 2010 during investigation that he has sexually harassed a female attorney, and that then the public evidence of that harassment somehow mysteriously disappeared - Judge Caldwell quickly recovered from his sudden urge to spend time with his grandchildren, decided to occupy his time by being a State legislator, and, upon election into the State Legislature, wielded a campaign to dismantle the Judicial Qualifications Commission that caused him to spend more time with his grandchildren.
The video included with the report of Johnnie Caldwell seeking to dismantle the Judicial Qualifications Commission watches as a detective story involving:
- a transcript of testimony regarding sexual harassment that led to resignation of Judge Caldwell missing from the court file;
- the mentioning of the transcript created in 2010 being erased from the court file in 2016, right after journalists asked for it;
- then the transcript mysteriously appeared, but was mis-filed in an unrelated case; and
- the stenographer now contacted the journalists personally and indicated that they now can have a copy of the transcript.
- crammed his tongue into a female attorney's mouth - obviously without her consent;
- told her to wear tighter pants in court, and
- told her to take her pants down for him to "see it, if he cannot touch it"
- not for sexual harassment of a female attorney, involving sexual battery, despite available transcript of testimony of the victim;
- not regarding his possible (and likely) role in removing the transcript from the court file;
- not for continuing to register himself in his attorney registration information as a judge for 6 years after his resignation
Judge Caldwell was not stripped of his pension - as he should have been under the circumstances.
He was not stripped of his law license - as he should have been under the circumstances.
- not for sexual harassment of a female attorney,
- not for his role in the sudden disappearance of the public evidence of that sexual harassment.
- Wendell Willard, a white male, a Republican, and a practicing attorney whose law license is in the hands of the judiciary, and who, through his private practice, has a personal, financial, interest in providing favors for the judiciary. Thus, Rep. Willard has an irreconcilable conflict of interest to author or vote a bill clearly benefiting the judiciary;
- Mary Margaret Oliver, a white female, a Democrat, and a former judge and a present practicing attorney, with an irreconcilable personal financial conflict of interest that should prevent her from co-authoring or voting on any legislature that would benefit the judiciary;
- Tom Weldon, a white male and a practicing attorney with an irreconcilable financial conflict of interest that should bar him from bringing or even voting on legislation benefiting the judiciary that holds the key to his law license and livelihood;
- Taylor Bennett, a white male, a Democrat, and a currently practicing attorney with a financial interest in passing legislation benefitting the judiciary who controls his law license and livelihood;
- Pam Stephenson, a black female, a Democrat and a "successful attorney" - with an irreconcilable conflict of interest barring her from authoring legislature that would benefit the judiciary, the regulator of her law license and the source of her income;
The authors of this new proposition are:
- William Willard - a lawyer, with a personal financial interest in such a constitutional amendment, see above,
- Mary Oliver - a lawyer and a former judge, see above,
- Johnnie Caldwell - a lawyer and a resigned judge, see above,
- Jan Jones - a white female, a Republican and, amazingly, not an attorney, but a business executive;
- John Meadows - a white male, a Republican, and not an attorney, but a business executive;
- Jon Burns - a white male, a Republican and not an attorney, but a business owner and executive.
They toss most of complaints against judges, even meritorious complaints, and mostly without investigation.
Their members are themselves fraught with conflicts of interest. When judges and lawyers are investigating and prosecuting (supposedly) judges who regulate lawyers' livelihoods - and the lay non-lawyer public does not have a say in how judges are disciplined - that is already bad.
What Johnnie Caldwell and his teams seek though, is even worse: to make it impossible for the public to ever know whether any of the judges were ever disciplined.
Judicial Qualifications Commission in Georgia and in other states does need to be reformed - in that Johnnie Caldwell is correct.
But, the way it should be reformed is not a plunge into more secrecy and less involvement or scrutiny by the public, but, on the opposite, more scrutiny by the public, more transparency.
Judicial Qualifications Commissions should constitute ENTIRELY of lay individuals who have no ties with the legal profession or the judiciary.
All complaints against judges should be public.
All results of investigations against judges should be public.
All dismissals of such complaints should be subject to appeals by complainants - that is not so in many states.
Judges should be judged and disciplined based on grand jury - like proceedings, and panels reviewing discipline against judges should not only not have ties to the judiciary or the legal profession, but should be randomly chosen from the cross-section of the community, same as jury duty, to prevent formation of "sweet connections" and "sweet deals" with the disciplined judges, and to eliminate political pressure upon members of the panels.
Laws should be introduced to make it a felony to interfere with the work of the Commission and its disciplinary panels.
Yet, to bring about such a reform, the likes of Johnnie Caldwell should be impeached, disbarred and locked up - in accordance with the already existing laws.
At this time, one only wonders, how the State Legislature of the State of Georgia makes sure that female personnel of the Legislature is protected from sexual harassment by Johnnie Caldwell.
A sexual predator on the loose making constitutional amendments.