On Tuesday, August 23, 2022, the Supreme Court of Georgia entered an order in the judicial conduct proceeding relating to Douglas County Probate Court Judge Christina Peterson. The case is styled as ‘In the Matter of Judge Christina Peterson’ with case number #S22Z0180.

In July 2021, and again in September 2021, the Judicial Qualifications Commission filed formal charges against Judge Peterson. Also in September 2021, the Investigative Panel filed a motion pursuant to JQC Rule 15 (C) to suspend Judge Peterson pending the final outcome of the JQC’s investigation of the judge on the ground that she posed a substantial and immediate threat of serious harm to the public and the administration of justice.

In an order issued on October 15, 2021, the Supreme Court denied the first motion without prejudice. The Investigative Panel filed amended formal charges against Judge Peterson in February 2022, and again in July.

On July 19, 2022, the JQC’s Investigative Panel filed a second motion for interim suspension of Judge Peterson, who has garnered more than 50 counts of alleged judicial misconduct. According to the motion, Judge Peterson’s conduct amounts to willful misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform the duties of office, habitual intemperance, and is prejudicial to the administration of justice.

In a five-page ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed with the JQC’s contention that “Judge Peterson’s ongoing pattern of flagrant disregard for the law and the Code of Judicial Conduct clearly rises to the level of continuing conduct” that would authorize a preliminary suspension.

The order reads:

“The JQC in its motion argues that an interim suspension is warranted because “Judge Peterson’s ongoing pattern of flagrant disregard for the law and the Code of Judicial Conduct clearly rises to the level of continuing conduct” authorizing suspension under the rule as “it demonstrates a very clear, immediate, and substantial threat of serious harm to the public and to the proper administration of justice in the Probate Court of Douglas County.” We disagree.”

The prior allegations are a panoply of, if proven true, ill-advised and unjust actions harmful to any court system. “The pending motion references the prior allegations that Judge Peterson improperly jailed a citizen without due process, unnecessarily activated a courthouse panic button, denied JQC personnel access to public records, used social media improperly while a candidate for judicial office and as a judge-elect, and allowed citizens to enter a courthouse after hours for a wedding despite the captain of courthouse security instructing her not to do so given the unavailability of deputies for security screenings.”

The new allegations are another laundry list, equally disturbing: “including allegations of ex parte communications with a party interested in a matter regarding a petition for year’s support, and allegations that staff had a practice of adjusting hand file-stamp dates backwards. The motion also relies on allegations about conduct by Judge Peterson at a meeting of her Homeowners Association in March, as well as allegations about her recent use of a court Facebook page to advertise her role in a play.”

The order goes on:

“The JQC appears to suggest that it has been unable to resolve this matter because it continues to learn of additional instances of misconduct by Judge Peterson. Judge Peterson acknowledges that she has not objected to the pace at which the JQC’s prosecution of her has proceeded, given that in the meantime she has been permitted to remain on the bench. But the JQC has not explained how its discovery of new allegations prevents it from proceeding to a hearing on the allegations already investigated, or what sort of investigation remains to be done as to those allegations.”

The order continues:

“This denial of the motion for interim suspension should not be understood as discounting the seriousness of the charges against Judge Peterson. While some of the charges are relatively minor, many are quite significant. If proved, they may well warrant severe discipline. But we see no reason why that proof should not have to be offered in the ordinary course.”

The order additionally notes:

“For the foregoing reasons, the Court denies the motion for interim suspension filed on July 19, 2022. The Court directs the parties to proceed to a hearing or otherwise resolve this matter without further delay.”

The Judge earned a law degree from the Wisconsin School of Law in 2023.
The Judge’s Courtroom is at 8700 Hospital Drive 3rd Floor, Judicial Side in Douglasville, and can be reached at 770-920-7249 https://www.celebratedouglascounty.com/219/Probate-Court.

A copy of the original filing can be found here