report on a "Probate Judge" given the heave-ho by the Georgia Supreme Court. Generally speaking, I feel I bring some insight to these reports by reading between the lines, but his one has me wondering wtf? Here's the report:
The Georgia Supreme Court has permanently removed a suspended Twiggs County Probate Court (pic of courthouse) judge from office and barred him from ever holding judicial office again in the state. The court ruled on Monday that Judge Kenneth E. Fowler showed he was unwilling to live up to his legal and ethical responsibilities. The Judicial Qualifications Commission found that Fowler had violated several judicial canons, such as by telling criminal defendants they had to prove their innocence. The commission also said Fowler let criminal defendants buy out of community service, then put the proceeds into a bank account he controlled. Fowler, who was suspended in May, is not a lawyer. His attorney, Jon Helton, returned a phone call but said he was in court and had not seen the ruling.
Here are some of the allegations against Judge Fowler:
•He convicted some suspects without any testimony from law-enforcement officers -- finding some defendants guilty based on an officer's notes written on the traffic ticket.
•He expressed bias on cases by making comments like, "That radar ain't gonna be wrong. I've rode in them (patrol) cars."
•He fined defendants for "costs" higher than the amounts allowed by law and jailed people for contempt of court for periods longer than allowed by law.
•He "failed to show proper decorum while presiding in Probate Court by improperly answering telephone calls while sitting on the bench, thus interrupting court sessions."
•He met with witnesses outside court -- for example, telling one suspect, "This game warden done told me all about your case."
•He heard cases -- for example drug and child-cruelty charges -- that are outside his authority as probate judge.
•He called a tenant on behalf of a Twiggs County property owner, identified himself as a judge and ordered them to move out of their rental property.
•He allowed a defendant's friend to try to interpret in court, even though the man admitted he could not speak Spanish.
You can "google" Judge Fowler and watch video from the commission of inquiry into Judge The Judge blamed his problems on his lack of an appropriate education. No kidding?
It's very curious how some of these jurisdictions allow non-lawyers to occupy judicial seats. We've seen it several times throughout the life of this blawg--I'm sure there are examples of outstanding people doing these jobs without a formal law education, but often not. It just seems so strange to empower non-lawyers to hear cases in even petty criminal matters. Small law, in the smaller courts most people have their first and most important exposure to the Rule of Law--having a guy like former-Judge Fowler presiding sends a pretty lousy message.
A "probate judge" in Georgia appears to be someone with handling more than estates, wills and trusts like you find in most U.S. jurisdictions.