On Tuesday, April 2, 2024, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission has recommended removing Douglas County Probate Judge Christina Peterson from office.

The panel issued a 54-page report on March 31 stating that Judge Peterson has demonstrated “a troubling pattern of ineptitude and misconduct” and is “not fit to serve” as a judge. This comes after the Commission filed ethics charges against Judge Peterson in July 2021, originally accusing her of 50 separate violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct.

Though 20 of the charges have since been withdrawn or dismissed, the remaining allegations against Judge Peterson are extensive. She has been accused of inappropriate social media posts, improperly jailing and fining a woman who sought to amend her marriage license without an attorney, allowing wedding participants into the Douglas County courthouse after hours without authorization, being abusive toward another judge and county officials, obstructing access to public records, and having improper contact with a litigant.

During a trial held by the Commission last year, Judge Peterson acknowledged some mistakes in her first year on the bench. However, the panel found her testimony to be “untruthful and evasive.” Their report states that throughout the investigation, Judge Peterson was “disingenuous, if not outright dishonest.”

The Commission, which investigates complaints of judicial misconduct, has twice sought to suspend Judge Peterson. Both requests were denied by the Georgia Supreme Court. However, the panel argues that anything less than removal from office would not adequately address Judge Peterson’s actions, given her attitude that the ethics case against her has been unfair and biased against her career.

If removed, Judge Peterson would lose her position as Douglas County’s first Black probate judge, to which she was elected without opposition in November 2020. Her attorney, Lester Tate, says they reject the panel’s recommendation and look forward to arguing their case before the Supreme Court.

The Commission’s director, Courtney Veal, believes the panel’s report speaks for itself and looks forward to a final ruling from the high court. Both sides will have 20 days to file responses to the report, though no timeline has been given for a decision. Judge Peterson has qualified to seek reelection in May’s Democratic primary, facing a challenge from attorney Valerie Vie, with no Republican candidates filed.

According to records, Judge Peterson worked as a prosecutor in Douglas and Fulton counties after becoming a lawyer in 2013 but had no prior judicial experience. She has maintained throughout that she has faced unfair criticism and obstruction as the county’s first Black probate judge. However, the panel argues her proven misconduct necessitates removal from office. The Georgia Supreme Court will have the final say in this prominent judicial ethics case.

 

 

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution