On Monday, May 15, 2023, Honorable Robert Reeves, Chief Judge of the Middle Judicial Circuit Superior Court in the state of Georgia, filed a motion to dismiss the formal charges lodged against him for his derogatory remarks in the courtroom against members and non-members of the Bar.

The case is entitled “In the Matter of Robert Reeves,” with case no. s23Z0337.

On January 6, 2023, in the answer of the respondent to the formal charges, it was stated that on November 16, 2022, Charles Boring, Director of the JQC, filed a complaint against Judge Reeves alleging that the latter consistently made derogatory remarks in the courtroom against members and non-members of the Bar, committed sexual harassment, and inappropriately used his title as a judge. 

The answer to the formal charges report states:

“Director Boring requests that the Court impose upon Judge Reeves the necessary disciplinary action for violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct. On January 3, 2023, Judge Reeves was granted an extension to file his answer in a document signed by Judge Robert Burney, Presiding Officer of the JQC Hearing Panel. Director Boring consented to the request stating that there was a necessity to do so. The filing is entitled ‘Extension of Time to Answer’, Supreme Court docket S23Z0337.”

The answer to the formal charges report continues:

“Judge Reeves does not recall the exact reason why the courtroom audience had been instructed to remain seated. Judge Reeves stated that this individual had already attempted to leave the courtroom once and was personally instructed to remain seated. Judge Reeves cannot recall using the word “retarded” but admits the portion of the third sentence in Paragraph 3 of the Formal Charges that he instructed the individual to remain seated in.”

Following the answer of the respondent, on February 23, 2023, the Judicial Qualifications Commission of the State of Georgia issued a scheduling order to hear the same.

On May 15, 2023, the respondent filed his dispositive motion to the formal charges. In the said motion, Hon. Reeves requested the court to grant his motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for judgment on the pleadings, dismissing “habitual intemperance” as authority for discipline in the matter, and dismissing willful misconduct in office as authority for charges that allege clearly nonjudicial conduct

The motion to dismiss states:

“The Formal Charges cite three separate sources of Constitutional authority to justify discipline against Judge Reeves, and one of these is wholly inapplicable here. While the Georgia Constitution permits judicial discipline for “habitual intemperance,” it does not define the phrase. Contextually, it appears the JQC’s Investigative Panel has confused the terms “intemperate” with “intemperance”, at least as that term is defined in Georgia law.”

The motion to dismiss continues:

“The clear meaning of “habitual intemperance” is repeated public intoxication not spoken words. While the Formal Charges cite this Constitutional provision for justifying discipline here, nowhere in the Formal Charges is any allegation of Judge Reeves’s partaking of any substance of any kind. Accordingly, none of the counts contained in the Formal Charges permit discipline on the ground that Judge Reeves’s conduct amounted to “habitual intemperance,” and this authority should be dismissed as a matter of law.”

The motion to dismiss further states:

“The Formal Charges also rely upon the Constitutional category of “willful misconduct in office” to justify discipline in this matter. Because the pleading does not specify which counts rely upon this authority, Respondent can only presume it undergirds each count of the Formal Charges, regardless of the conduct alleged. However, as the Supreme Court of Georgia has recently clarified, “‘willful misconduct in office ’ applies only to actions taken in . . . a judicial capacity.” Inquiry Concerning Judge Christian Coomer, No. S21Z0595, slip op. at 44 (Ga. Mar. 15, 2023). “And ‘judicial capacity’ is a familiar phrase that means actions taken not merely during the term of service as a judge, but actions taken actually as a judge exercising judicial power.”

For the foregoing reasons, the respondent requested the court to grant his motion.

The motion to dismiss states:

“For the foregoing reasons, Respondent prays this Court to grant his Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings, dismissing “habitual intemperance” as authority for discipline in this matter, and dismissing “willful misconduct in office” as authority for charges that allege clearly nonjudicial conduct. Respectfully submitted this 15th day of N’lay 2023.”

In 2007, Judge Reeves was appointed to the Middle Judicial Circuit bench, which includes the counties of Candler, Emanuel, Jefferson, Toombs, and Washington. He was appointed the circuit’s chief judge in 2020, following Judge Kathy Palmer’s retirement.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.