published Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

Disbarred Georgia judge sues over conspiracy to have him fired

Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters, listens during a hearing where the state is seeking to remove him from bench for erratic behavior, at the Georgia Court of Appeals in Atlanta. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, Peters, who pointed a gun at himself while at the courthouse, berated his boss in a bizarre televised rant and admitted to regularly smoking marijuana, was ousted from the bench for life by the state's top court. The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous opinion barred Peters from ever holding another judicial office in Georgia.
Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters, listens during a hearing where the state is seeking to remove him from bench for erratic behavior, at the Georgia Court of Appeals in Atlanta. On Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011, Peters, who pointed a gun at himself while at the courthouse, berated his boss in a bizarre televised rant and admitted to regularly smoking marijuana, was ousted from the bench for life by the state's top court. The Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous opinion barred Peters from ever holding another judicial office in Georgia.
Photo by Associated Press.

A former North Georgia judge who was disbarred for defying authority, misusing his position and smoking marijuana has accused his immediate superiors in a federal lawsuit of conspiring to sabotage his political ambitions.

Former Catoosa County Magistrate Anthony Peters claims former Chief Magistrate Donald “Sonny” Caldwell made it known he planned to retire, but when he learned Peters was vying for the position the chief tried to demote Peters.

In the lawsuit filed in Rome, Ga., Peters asks for $20 million for damages and a jury trial, claiming Caldwell conspired with Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers to have Peters arrested and in turn hurt his career.

Neither Summers nor Caldwell were available for comment Tuesday.

Peters was removed from office in 2011 by the Georgia Supreme Court after an investigation and historic two-day hearing showed he lost trust with the public through violating multiple codes of judicial conduct.

In June 2010, Peters claims, Caldwell met with the judge and told him he would begin working from 3 to 11 p.m., which was typically the on-call judge’s duty, the lawsuit states.

When Peters refused, he was ordered to leave the courthouse, and when he wouldn’t, sheriff’s office personnel hauled him out of the court in handcuffs, records show.

Peters wasn’t allowed to return to work, and Caldwell filed a complaint with the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Months later Peters was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct, but the charges later were dismissed, his attorney James Satcher Jr. said.

One of the complaints lodged with the commission stated that Peters refused an order from his supervisor and after his arrest went on a local cable television show and called the sheriff a “spineless ... jelly spine.”

But Satcher argues that Caldwell didn’t have direct authority over Peters and just made the order to strip Peters of his office. Also, during the meeting with Peters, there was a hidden video camera placed in the room, which showed the event was planned, the lawsuit states.

“It was a political thing,” Satcher said. “They conspired to put him out of office.”

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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