Georgia judicial panel says Catoosa judge should go

Georgia judicial panel says Catoosa judge should go

May 11th, 2011 by Joy Lukachick Smith in News

Document: Report of the Judicial Qualifications Commission

Report of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, findings and recommendations presented to the Supreme Court of Georgia on the inquiry concerning Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters.

A Catoosa County, Ga., judge who admitted to using marijuana and insulting local officials on television is unfit to serve on the bench, the state agency that investigates judges has decided.

After months of investigation and a rare two-day trial, the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended in a report released Tuesday that Magistrate Anthony Peters be removed from his position and be barred from ever seeking a judicial office in the state.

"The testimony at the hearing revealed that Peters' erratic and irrational behavior eroded confidence in his ability to be a judge," the commission's report stated.

Peters, who was appointed as a magistrate in 1997, was charged in February with 13 counts of judicial misconduct. The charges, which include pointing a gun at his own head in another judge's office and abusing his authority, stemmed from incidents that occurred between 2008 and 2010.

Just minutes after learning about the commission's decision on Tuesday, Peters said he hoped the Georgia Supreme Court would see his side.

"I'm very disappointed," he said.

Peters has 30 days to file a petition asking the Georgia Supreme Court to modify or reject the commission's recommendation, commission director Jeff Davis said.

During Peters' hearing in April, he told the five-member panel that he made poor decisions while he was taking several prescribed painkillers for a back injury. For about three months, he also smoked marijuana on a weekly basis to relieve the pain, he said.

But during that time, Peters argued he never abused his authority on the bench or pointed a gun at his head saying, "I'm not afraid to die, are you?"

"That never happened," he testified in court.

But in the commission's conclusion, the panel found that Peters couldn't remember other events around the time and that Judge Vic Wells, who witnessed the incident, was a credible source.

The commission acknowledged that Peters was going through a difficult time, but in its written statements said it couldn't ignore his public outbreaks.

"Magistrate judges are often the only face of the judicial system members of the public will ever see," the commission's concluded.

After Peters was hauled out of the courthouse in June and not allowed to return to work, he went on television and called his boss, Chief Magistrate Donald "Sonny" Caldwell, "spineless." Peters later called in to the same show pretending to have a foreign accent and called Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers "a spineless ... jelly spine."

Even Peters' own friend, Larry Stagg, admitted on the witness stand that last summer the judge "almost went Charlie Sheen," the report stated.

All of Peters' arguments were not persuasive to justify his actions, the report said.

"Peters' airing of his grievances against all those in the judicial system ... brought discredit upon the entire judiciary and eroded public confidence in the very court he took an oath to serve," the commission stated.