On Wednesday, August 16, 2023, the Supreme Court of Georgia removed the Georgia Court of Appeal Judge Christian Coomer from office for deliberate wrongdoing in his capacity and by demonstrating actions that subvert the effective operation of justice.
The case is entitled “In the Matter of Christian Coomer” with case no. S21Z0595.
On January 30, 2023, the Judicial Qualifications Commission of the State of Georgia recommended the removal of Coomer. The judge is purported to have breached the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct by engaging in intentional misconduct within his role and by exhibiting behavior that undermines the proper functioning of justice, thereby tarnishing the reputation of the judicial office. The amended formal charges encompass 36 counts, which can be categorized into five distinct types of improper actions.
The document alleged that, while still actively practicing law, Coomer orchestrated promissory notes and engaged in loans with a client that displayed a lack of fairness and reasonableness. Furthermore, Coomer neglected to furnish the client with their financial records and invoices, despite repeated requests. In a separate instance, the same also consistently violated campaign finance regulations in the years leading up to his appointment to the Court of Appeals and continued these violations during his tenure on the Court of Appeals. Lastly, while discharging duties as a judge on the CA, the respondent was found to have made certain false statements and omissions on a mortgage application.
The report states:
“The Hearing Panel concludes that the Director has proven Counts 1-12, 15-22, 24-31, and 35 by clear and convincing evidence but has failed to prove Counts 13-14, 23, 32-34, and 36 by that same standard. Having considered the entire record of this disciplinary action, directly observed the testimony of the various witnesses — including Respondent and his victim, Filhart — and reviewed the documentary evidence submitted by the parties, the Hearing Panel of the Judicial Qualifications Commission respectfully recommends to the Supreme Court that Respondent Judge Christian Coomer be removed from office as a judge of the Court of Appeals. JOC Rule 6(B)(1).”
In a comprehensive examination, the Supreme Court of Georgia stated that Judge Coomer’s behavior displayed a pattern of ignoring the law for personal benefit, manipulating campaign funds, and disregarding ethical norms, ultimately eroding public trust in his ability to impartially apply the law. The culmination of these actions and the lack of genuine accountability led to the decision that his continued service as a judge would undermine the credibility of the judicial system. Therefore, removal was deemed the appropriate course of action, in line with precedent cases involving similar conduct.
The inquiry concerning Judge Coomer states:
“As we said before, this is a close case from an evidentiary perspective; the evidence may very well have supported different findings, especially as to bad faith. But having determined that the relevant findings that the Hearing Panel made are supported by sufficient evidence, our decision about the proper sanction is not a difficult one. The Hearing Panel’s findings that we have determined were not clearly erroneous and show that Judge Coomer has exploited a vulnerable person, has repeatedly violated campaign finance rules and flouted professional norms, and has done so knowingly and for his own personal financial benefit.”
The inquiry concerning Judge Coomer continues:
“By demonstrating a pattern of refusing to comply with the law and professional norms when noncompliance was in his interest, he has undermined the public’s trust in his ability to follow and apply the law honestly and fairly in cases that come before him. And he was dishonest and exploitative in his dealings with a vulnerable person, a quality that is flatly incompatible with being a judge. Accordingly, his continued service would undermine the public’s confidence in the judicial system as a whole. Based on all of these aspects of Judge Coomer’s actions, we conclude that removal is the appropriate sanction.”
The court has evaluated Judge Coomer’s public service history, the nature of his conduct, and his behavior during the JQC inquiry. After considering these elements, it has been concluded that removal is the fitting sanction. Consequently, Judge Coomer of the Court of Appeals of Georgia is ordered to be removed from office.
The Disposition states:
“Accordingly, it is ordered that Judge Christian Coomer of the Court of Appeals of Georgia be removed from office, effective upon disposition of any motion for reconsideration filed pursuant to this Court’s Rule 27, or upon the expiration of the time for filing such a motion without any such motion having been filed. As a result of this order, Judge Coomer “ shall not be eligible to be elected or appointed to any judicial office in this state until seven years have elapsed ” from the date of this order.”
Judge Coomers’ courtroom is located at 330 Capitol Avenue Suite 1601 Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 656-3450. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.