Judges go bad and public stays in dark

The world within our judicial branch can be a creepy place at times. The average citizen has no idea about some of the frolicking that takes place behind the scenes at some of our houses of justice. In fact, to be totally honest, I had to think very carefully before writing this out of fear of retribution from the Superior Court one day. But here we go.

As you have no doubt read, two of our Superior Court judges, Johnnie Caldwell and Paschal English, have been pushed out of office by the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC). Sadly, this is not the first time the JQC has had to force a judge out of his seat in Fayette County.

Previously, Magistrate Court Judge Kenny Melear, who callously used racial slurs while conducting judicial business, was shown the exit door and told not to return.

In the case of Caldwell and English, I was not surprised; rather, I wondered what took so long.

Yet another local judge may be trashed later if he continues to become entrenched in local and state politics, prohibited in the code of conduct.

The great irony is the people who wear the black robes, doling out justice in our community, get a free pass when it comes to their own unsavory behavior. They are essentially told to go home and to not be bad boys any longer.

The system we have in place for judicial oversight is pitiful. Our process of the judges looking after the judges creates an environment where only the most blatant offenses are punished.

Having our new Chief Judge Chris Edwards appoint District Attorney Scott Ballard to investigate the alleged “improper intimate relationship” of English, after Ballard has appeared before English’s court on a routine basis, calling English a legal “giant” in a local newspaper, does not give me a lot of confidence in the system. Yes, English already relented to the JQC and resigned, but should not an investigation be through an impartial party?

The judicial system is an honor system, leaving the citizenry exposed, with little ability to protect the public from judges who refuse to follow the law and engage in inappropriate behavior through their decisions.

As a general rule, once a judge is in office, it is almost impossible to vote the person out. Rarely, will you see a judge challenged in an election because the local attorneys know they will have to go to trial before that judge if they lose.

John Mrosek is the only local attorney who had the guts to challenge the status quo, running against Caldwell on two occasions. He should get top consideration for one of the open posts.

Obviously, having a judgeship with complete control of a courtroom and very little chance of being voted out of office creates a fiefdom mentality. It takes extraordinary discipline to maintain balance and suppress the ego under those conditions.

The longer a judge is in office, the more difficult it becomes.

The fiefdom mentality can cause a judge not to exercise even-handed judgment based on the rule of law. Personal relationships, prior business relationships, social networks can be allowed to supersede justice.

The code of judicial conduct, referred to as “judicial canons,” demands a judge respect and comply with the law and act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.

The canons stipulate a judge be patient, dignified, and courteous, performing judicial duties without bias and prejudice.

I have had court dealings with both Caldwell and English. I cannot honestly say that I did not consider either of them without bias on those occasions. One of those occasions cost the Peachtree City taxpayers $1.5 million, covering the Development Authority corruption during the Logsdon administration.

Of course, the two judges liked to hand out hefty sentences at the end of a trial. Those sentences were reported in the local newspapers, being, many times, the only public exposure their courts received. And while the public approved of stiff sentencing for criminals, which is not necessarily the best indicator that the integrity of the courts is being preserved, the judges began to wander

Please do not misunderstand and think I am saying that all of our judges are part of some corrupt bargain. We have some that daily apply the judicial canons to their practice as judge.

Character is the most important component in being a successful judge. Temptations always come along, the true test of character. In a system that absolutely relies on public trust, we must pray that Governor Perdue selects men or women of great character to fill the two vacancies on our Superior Court.

Steve Brown

Peachtree City, Ga.

[Steve Brown is a current Republican candidate for the Fayette County Commission and the former mayor of Peachtree City.]

ginga1414
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I Will Go On

Voice, I would like to add a few more points that Jack Smith won't use.

The Commissioners did not follow the project priority list developed in 2003 when spending the SPLOST money after they voted unanimously to have the East Fayetteville Bypass as the number one project.

Under the Georgia Open Records Act, they did not or could not produce documentation as to when and by whom the decision was made to move the West Fayetteville Bypass (phase2) to the top of the priority list.

He will not run on the fact that the Commissioners voted to give the new Sheriff, Wayne Hannah, a pay supplement of $13,939.85 over and above his regular pay as Sheriff just before he took office.

He absolutely will not run on the fact that the Commissioners agreed to hire an attorney for the State Court Solicitor to negotiate with the Commissioners for a raise for him. Can you imagine hiring an attorney to negotiate a raise with an employee?

And, just one more. County Administrator, Jack Krakeel's contract states that they Commissioners will give him a performance review "IF HE REQUESTS IT".

Please forgive me. I just have to add this one. The Commissioners gave staff Attorney Scott Bennett an 11.11% salary increase after only one year and did not even give him a performance review as called for in his contract.

There are many more.

Voice of Fayett...
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Jack Smith: The Record He Will NOT Run On

•Pushes the SPLOST, yet again, despite early warnings to him (Jack doesn’t listen very well) and the Fayette voters say NO in a 70-30 rejection
•Pushes the West Fayetteville Bypass, despite almost unanimous community and tax based objections (Jack doesn’t listen very well)
•Accepts appointment after election as Commission Chairman to Bank Board that advertised itself as “The Developers Bank”, and (oops) just months before the FDIC appears at the door
•Rushes Fayette into the arms of MARTA and ARC, spearheading our entrance in to mass transit proposing (for example) a bus route from Fayetteville to Riverdale (Jack doesn’t listen very well)

Should I go on ???

Steve Brown
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People are tired of the special interests, Birdman

The point that Birdman neglects is that the JQC went to both judges with what they had, and both judges quickly resigned. For the record, the special legal counsel that we hired while I was mayor found the City Attorney Rick Lindsey and authority attorney Doug Warner (the same person who was on the development authority giving he and his buddies off-the-record loans to their authority at the very same time he was on the board of directors of the lending bank, ouch) did switch the language in an intergovernmental agreement AFTER the city council voted on it, ouch again.

Judge Edwards needs to bring in independent counsel to investigate the now-former judges if he does not want it to appear as the deal is rigged.

As far as saying all judges are corrupt, Birdman, as you claim, I actually said, “Please do not misunderstand and think I am saying that all of our judges are part of some corrupt bargain. We have some that daily apply the judicial canons to their practice as judge.”

There was no negotiated Wieland “annexation package” and no annexation – that is until your Mayor Logsdon annexed it.

My comments on the past SPLOST resulted in a phony state ethics charge from the developer-driven political action committee called Direct PAC. The State Ethics Commission ruled there was absolutely no merit to the charges and threw them out.

Somebody does need to question you Birdman. I think the people are getting tired of the special interest attacks. I do not think smearing the truth is going to work this time around, but you keep trying.

birdman
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I was wondering why Brown went after the judges, then...

I saw he is running for County Commission. Well, guess I need to get out the "ink." The last person we want in any of our political offices is Brown. His reign of terror over PTC proved that. But I digress.
I couldn't figure out why Brown went after two judges who have already been discredited. Then he pointed it out. He appeared before both. Now, it isn't that he really has any evidence of misconduct (Steve doesn't worry about proof when a simple, deniable, accusation will work), it is only that they didn't rule in his favor. Brown is so arrogant that if someone disagrees then they are "bad." Ask ANY of us who DARED question him while he was Mayor. We were belittled, insulted, attacked, etc. at every turn. As for the "Development Authority corruption" he refers to? Well, quite simply Brown simply didn't get his way. So since the judge ruled against him, then obviously the judge must have been corrupt. Ironically Brown's own $50,000 special prosecutor couldn't find any legal wrongdoing. "No evidence" he said (how's that for "fiscal management).
Now, I am not defending either judge, I don't know the facts and I trust that the legal authorities and the resignations speak for themselves. But as for Brown indicting all the judges are corrupt and untrustworthy? Well that's simply Steve being "Steve." If one doesn't agree then he/she must be "corrupt," "a developer," "evil," etc. After all, in Steve's mind, he is NEVER wrong. Just like he wasn't wrong to secretly negotiate an annexation package with Weiland Homes while Mayor, during an Annexation Moratorium. He wasn't wrong when he went on Comcast to oppose the SPLOST, even though it violated the Ethics laws. He wasn't wrong when he used the City Secretary as a "carpool" service to pick up his daughter, a violation of the law. And the list goes on.
No, Steve isn't wrong, everyone else is.
Let's just not give the whole county a chance to be "wrong," vote him down!

Steve Brown
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The Birdman-special interest point of view

The point that Birdman neglects is that the JQC went to both judges with what they had, and both judges quickly resigned. For the record, the special legal counsel that we hired while I was mayor found the City Attorney Rick Lindsey and authority attorney Doug Warner (the same person who was on the development authority giving he and his buddies off-the-record loans to their authority at the very same time he was on the board of directors of the lending bank, ouch) did switch the language in an intergovernmental agreement AFTER the city council voted on it, ouch again.

Judge Edwards needs to bring in independent counsel to investigate the now-former judges if he does not want it to appear as the deal is rigged.

As far as saying all judges are corrupt, Birdman, as you claim, I actually said, “Please do not misunderstand and think I am saying that all of our judges are part of some corrupt bargain. We have some that daily apply the judicial canons to their practice as judge.”

There was no negotiated Wieland “annexation package” and no annexation – that is until your Mayor Logsdon annexed it.

My comments on the past SPLOST resulted in a phony state ethics charge from the developer-driven political action committee called Direct PAC. The State Ethics Commission ruled there was absolutely no merit to the charges and threw them out.

Somebody does need to question you Birdman. I think the people are getting tired of the special interest attacks. I do not think smearing the truth is going to work this time around, but you keep trying.

birdman
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Well Steve,

I think you are making my point, that you are never to blame, everyone else is. I am not a "special interest" group member, but you can't accept that since I speak against you. Your SPLOST ethics violation came from you appearing on Comcast to elicit a "no" vote on the SPLOST, and that was in violation of the Ethics laws. Your response... that you "didn't know" that they identified you with a tag line saying you were Mayor, and that you were acting as a "private citizen." I'm sorry, I distinctly remember you being challenged by DIRECTPAC regarding your meeting with Wieland Homes about annexing their West Village properties, during a moratorium. Your response....you were only meeting with them as "Citizen Brown," not "Mayor" Brown. I wondered at the time (and wonder now) if Wieland would have met with me or any other "citizen" to talk about an annexation during an annexation moratorium?
As for the PCDC contract, if I remember correctly the "Special Prosecutor" found "no evidence" of any wrong doing. In fact he stated how complete the email records of city councilmen and staff was and how believable they were.
And as for the loan....it was originally paid for by Hotel/Motel taxes. That is until YOU stopped payment and defaulted. Yes, Logsden did negotiate a settlement, but the pay back came out of our depleted tax money. If you hadn't defaulted and stopped all funding to the Development Authority, the payback would have been made by people who visited PTC, not citizens. Oh, and how about the rapid decline of a once world class Tennis Center into, at best, mediocrity. Wonder how much money that cost the city businesses when tournaments pulled out and never returned.
Yeah Steve, you talk a big game, and you accuse well, and you are a master of the innuendo, but in the end it is without substance. Just like you calling me "special interest," or "developer," or some other totally unfounded and incorrect label. The difference this time is you now have a "past" that is verifiable.
Oh, if we are unfortunate enough to have you win the election, it will make for some great comedy. You can't stand not being in charge. You will only be a simple commissioner, not "Mayor." Should make for some fun meetings and fun letters.

mrs fran sheldon
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Shame on you, Birdman

Shame on you, Birdman. This is exactly why so many good people will not run for office--- you criticize Mr. Brown rather than talk about the candidate of your choice and perhaps some issues. If you support Mr. Bost or Mr. Smith, please feel free to tell us why. This is what is wrong with politics today.

birdman
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Actually mrs. fran

I don't think it is "shameful" to point out the record of someone running for office. Certainly Steve Brown doesn't hesitate to do just that. And if the record isn't bad enough, Steve will "bad" it up. His record is public. If you followed his "reign" as Mayor you will know how he switches gears, attacks all who dare question him, uses his office to advance his own agenda, and did all he could to turn support from our neighboring communities against us. He insulted the surrounding cities, the Fayette Commission, and Coweta County.
This is not unfounded innuendo like Steve frequently puts forth, but documented comments in city minutes and letters to the editor.
Case in point, if you read his response to me he personally attacks two well respected citizens by name. Unfortunately his comment (to my best memory) is incorrect. Neither were found incorrect by the Special Prosecutor. No charges were ever filed. No court case ever convened. In fact in all of Steve's many accusations, there were NEVER any cases made against anyone but him, and those were ethics violations.
So mrs. fran, you may think this is what is wrong with politics, but you should know that Steve Brown is the king of deceptive comments, unfounded accusation, slanderous innuendo. And when asked to "prove it," he simply stops talking. For example, he accused a former mayor of profiting from the very contract he's referring to now during a meeting between the two along with a Citizen reporter. When that mayor offered him a large sum of money to show any evidence of this accusation, but with the agreement that if Steve failed he'd resign as mayor, Steve quickly declined. You see, there was no fraud. Steve knew it, but he wanted the public perception to still be there. In fact he still wants it now. So he continues to put out a somewhat "revisionist" view of the events. Problem is, we don't forget.

A well known person continually used to state that, like our Founding Fathers, it was the duty of the citizen to publicly question our politicians. That "well known person" is Steve Brown. Problem is, when we stood up for our duty and questioned him, we were (and are) met with a "bony finger" pointed at us claiming "developer," "special interest," etc. Guess only HE can question politicians.

As for who I support, Bost has dropped out so that leaves Smith. Haven't made up my mind yet.

mudcat
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Birdman's got him nailed, "Mrs. Fran Sheldon"

I thought we determined Fran was one of Steve's extra identities a couple of years ago. Well, "she's" back.

Birdman does have a good memory and his recitation of the former mayor's mismanagement and inexperience are part of our city's history. What a useless waste of time - those 4 years of Brown and his little buddies living out their childhood - and childish dreams. Someone in the know really needs to put a price tag on what Brown cost this city in actual costs and lost opportunities because of bad relationships with county and state. Need to do that before the election just to be real sure we don't have him making even the smallest decisions for the county.

You all have got to remember the whole county votes in the Smith/Brown race, so the anti-everything crowd in North Fayette gets to weigh in this time and they may be influenced by Brown's "stick it to the man" campaign.

jevank
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Ms. Sheldon

I invite you to go back and read Steve Brown's letter. This time, count how many people he criticized before letting you know who he thinks should be judge.

Steve's arrogance very much comes into play during this election. If anyone disagrees with his appearant all-knowing views, he becomes accusatory and is unyielding. Unfortunately, this is the worst 3-way in history (double entendre intended.)

ilockemup
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Brown is right about

Brown is right about politicians being afraid of judges. It kind of fits in the public thinking of the judges as like the Wizard of Oz.

There is no way in hell that Johnnie Caldwell would have gone down for potty mouth to Susan Brown. She is as foul mouthed and dirty as he was. Caldwells got something else on the front burner. He gave it up to save his pension or to avoid some threat like that. English on the other hand was Mr. Smoothie all the time and was really a nice guy to cops and what not. Caldwell would make you remove your service weapon going in to his court. Go figure. With English though it was fairly common knowledge that this affair was going on. I don’t understand why Judge Edwards panicked and ordered an “investigation”. Maybe when they come back with a clean bill of health that will work with the public. If Saia and Ballard say they did not know about this affair then they were deaf, dumb and blind.

There’s a lot more story to be told on this one.

Steve Brown
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Jack Smith and the others have always been welcome

In fact, I have even encouraged them to give us their views on several occassions. All they need do is put finger to keyboard. Eric Maxwell did just that in this issue.

It is never about the issues with you guys, just personal attacks. Give Jack a call and tell him to get started.

I have dropped out of the column because of my candidacy, but you will see some candidate letters coming.

SB

TinCan
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Just Curious

Who is the "us" in the invitation. Us the citizens, us the Citizen, and if the latter that seems a bit odd.

BTW: It is never about the issues with you guys, just personal attacks.
Hello pot, hi kettle. Well sorry, I guess that may be personal.

Robert W. Morgan
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Ok, here's Brown's free space. Next week Smith? Or Bost?

As predicted Candidate Brown is getting his normal free space from Cal- albeit without the photo - thank God. Surely anyone can see the slippery slope Cal is going down by openly promoting one candidate while ignoring the two others. Not a political commentary, you say? How about the paragraph that starts with 3 "I's" and comments on the tired old theme of DAPC corruption?
Best thing to do is offer Smith and Bost (assuming he can write) free space to promote their own thoughts and ideas. Otherwise Cal will be in the uncomfortable position of influencing an election. I mean neither Brown or Bost actually have a chance because everytime you split the opposition, the incumbent usually gets elected (Brown himself being the exception that proves the rule). But even so, why take a chance on doing anything that can be challenged after the election?

jevank
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Robert Morgan

I saw this more as a John Mrosek endorsement. I am a bit leary of the relationship between Steve and John...just seems to cast clouds over new judges before there is even a change.

I also think there is a reason it was put under the Letters to the Editor section. Not sure on the legalities, but I assume everyone else has their equal opportunities for space. We'll see.

JeffC
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Your assumptions are wrong Robert M

Why do you assume Cal is ignoring Smith and Bost? Have either one written a piece for the Citizen that has been turned down? Call 'em up and tell them to write an editorial and send it in and see if it gets published. I remember Cal offering to print any candidate's letters. He prints my stuff, some of which he must think outrageously liberal and most of which is completely contrary to editorial views of the paper.

You're also wrong that Cal would be in an uncomfortable position trying to influence an election. Why do you suppose he runs a newspaper? And on what basis could the election be challenged?

You seem to be having a bad day.