ATLANTA — Georgia’s judicial watchdog has dismissed ethics complaints against a Georgia judge who was criticized for her involvement in the indictment and arrest of a journalist and his attorney.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission has dismissed four complaints filed against Appalachian Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda Weaver, the Daily Report newspaper reports . A report filed with the Georgia Supreme Court says the agency found “no grounds” for discipline.
The investigation looked into allegations Weaver had abused her position, engaged in “willful misconduct” and “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”
Weaver had served as the head of the commission until she resigned in August 2016. She didn’t specifically mention the controversy in an email sent to other commissioners at the time, but she said no one should distract from the commission’s duties and responsibilities.
Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and his lawyer, Russell Stookey, were indicted in June 2016 on charges of identity theft and attempt to commit identity theft. The indictment also accused Thomason of making a false statement in an Open Records Act request he had filed. The charges were dropped the following month.
The case stemmed from a legal battle between Thomason and court reporter Rhonda Stubblefield. Thomason was seeking an audio recording of a court proceeding before then-Judge Roger Bradley because he believed the transcript produced by Stubblefield was incomplete.
He tried to use the courts to compel her to release the audio recording and wrote a story saying the transcript might not be accurate. Stubblefield sued him for libel.
A judge ended up dismissing Thomason’s claim, and Stubblefield dropped her counterclaim. But Stubblefield subsequently filed paperwork asking to be reimbursed for attorney’s fees, even though she had been paid nearly $16,000 from Bradley’s operating account.
Weaver said the judges decided to use court money to cover the court reporter’s legal expenses since they stemmed from her work for the court.
Circuit District Attorney Alison Sosebee brought the charges at Weaver’s request after Weaver learned about subpoenas seeking records for her office’s operating account and for the operating account of Bradley, who is no longer on the bench. Weaver was named as the victim in the indictment.
The ethics complaints were filed by Thomason, Stookey, Fannin County attorney Lynn Doss and the Georgia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Information from: the Fulton County Daily Report, http://www.dailyreportonline.com