On Thursday, May 23, 2024, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson was defeated in a Democratic primary election. According to the article, Peterson received just under 35% of the vote against challenger Valerie Vie, a Douglasville attorney. With no Republican candidates in the race, Vie will run unopposed in the November general election.

Peterson’s time as probate judge was cut short as she faced removal from the bench by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission over several alleged ethics violations during her first term. The Commission charged Peterson with 30 counts of violating the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, including inappropriate social media posts, improperly jailing and fining a woman seeking to amend her marriage license, allowing after-hours access to the courthouse without permission, abusive behavior toward a fellow judge and county officials, obstruction of access to public records, and improper contact with a litigant.

A Commission panel recommended Peterson’s removal from office, citing her “systemic incompetence.” Their report stated Peterson had been dishonest during the investigation and her testimony was untruthful and evasive. The Georgia Supreme Court is currently considering what punishment, if any, Peterson should receive for the ethics charges. A decision is expected within the next few months.

Throughout the ethics case, Peterson has maintained she faced unfair criticism as the first Black probate judge in Douglas County. During hearings, Peterson admitted to mistakes in her first year but said she was trying to improve. However, the Commission panel found her apologies disingenuous. Peterson acknowledged jailing and fining the woman seeking to amend her marriage license was “harsh” but the panel concluded Peterson’s testimony was untruthful.

The ethics charges stem mainly from Peterson’s conduct as both a candidate and sitting judge. As a candidate, she was accused of making inappropriate jokes and promoting events at bars. As a judge, her behavior at a homeowners’ association meeting, where she mocked attendees and intervened in a pending lawsuit, was also cited in the charges.

Vie said Douglas County voters asked for new leadership, which she plans to provide as the next probate judge. Vie stated she would serve with proficiency, efficiency, and empathy.

 

 

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution