On Tuesday, September 6, 2022, the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission issued a scheduling order relating to the four-count misconduct complaint agianst Gerald Johnson, Chief Judge of the Magistrate Court of Habersham County.
The judge was charged with violating Rule 1.1, Rule 1.2, Rule 1.2 (B) and Rule 1.3 of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct, which states:
Judges shall respect and comply with the law.
Judges shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. Judges shall participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe such standards of conduct so that the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary may be preserved.
Judges shall not lend the prestige of their office to advance the private interests of the judge or others.
On October 18, 2021, Judge Johnson allegedly fired a gun, screamed and broke things in his home in a dispute with his wife. A lieutenant with the Habersham County Sheriff’s Office was dispatched in response to a 911.
The complaint reads:
“During this investigation, the lieutenant approached Judge Johnson’s home to inquire whether
Judge Johnson had any information regarding the report of gunshots. Based upon prior knowledge, the lieutenant was aware that it was the home of Judge Johnson.
After the lieutenant rang the doorbell, Judge Johnson abruptly opened the front door and pointed an AR-15 style firearm (“AR-15”) at the lieutenant while stating that he did not “call the law.” The lieutenant saw the AR-15 pointed at him and quickly fled for cover behind a marked patrol vehicle. Judge Johnson then informed the lieutenant that he had dropped the firearm and put his hands up in the air.
The lieutenant then approached Johnson to investigate further, speaking with Judge Johnson and Judge Johnson’s wife. The lieutenant reported that during his interaction with Judge Johnson he appeared to be
angry, visibly intoxicated, spoke with slurred speech, and was unstable on his feet, tumbling several times.”
According to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, Judge Johnson’s conduct amounts to willful misconduct in office and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice bringing the office of Chief Magistrate Judge of Habersham County into disrepute. The Commission is seeking disciplinary action for the above-stated violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
In a scheduling order issued on September 6, 2022, the commission announced that the hearing on the Formal Charges will occur on November 16, 2022.
The scheduling order states:
“The hearing on the Formal Charges in this Judicial Qualifications Commission (“JQC”) case will occur on 16 November 2022 beginning at 9:00 AM. The venue for the hearing has not yet been decided but will be in Atlanta. The parties have represented to the JQC’s Hearing Panel that (1) the hearing will take no more than one day, (2) most facts and violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct alleged in the Formal Charges have been stipulated to, and (3) the primary focus of the hearing will be on mitigating evidence from Judge Johnson and argument from both sides as to the proper sanction.”
The Judge’s Courtroom is at 295 Llewellyn Street in Clarkesville and can be reached at 706-839-0350.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.