Ex-judge English gets a pass on subpoena

Former Chief Superior Court Judge Paschal A. English was allowed Friday to postpone his testimony in a Peachtree City divorce case in which attorneys were probing alleged judicial improprieties in an effort to have several orders in the case overturned.

During the pretrial hearing, a former attorney in the case recounted how former Superior Court Judge Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr. once “stuck his tongue down my throat” during a tailgate party in Athens prior to a football game. Attorney Susan Brown testified that several of her friends witnessed the incident and that she pushed Caldwell away and told him she didn’t think it was a good idea.

“And he said, ‘You’re probably right,’ and then turned around and walked toward the game,” Brown testified. She also spoke of several occasions on which the judge propositioned her to spend the night with him.

Brown said she decided not to report that indiscretion, though later she ultimately asked Chief Judge Paschal A. English in late 2009 to intervene after a client of hers reported inappropriate remarks that Judge Caldwell made about her at a football game.

English, however, declined and suggested Brown take up the matter with Caldwell herself, she testified.

Brown said she sought English’s help “just so the comments would stop,” referring to the ribald remarks made by Caldwell.

“I didn’t want anything to happen to Judge Caldwell. I just wanted the comments to stop,” Brown said.

Brown said though Judge Caldwell had made risque comments to her directly before, the fact that he made such comments about her to a client jolted her.

“My initial reaction was, ‘Oh my god: he might be serious,’” Brown said.

Brown said her client advised her to take action because the client felt the matter was “appalling.” Thus Brown reported the matter to then-chief judge English, who took no action.

“He told me that he was sorry but he could not help me, and he told me to go sit down and handle it with Judge Caldwell by myself,” Brown said.

The divorce case between Greg Crook and Janet Bell Crook is now being presided over by Senior Superior Court Judge G. Grant Brantley, and attorneys for Mrs. Crook have subpoenaed former Judge English and also sitting Superior Court Judge Christopher Edwards.

When an attorney for Mrs. Crook brought up English’s absence in court, presiding Judge Brantley became quite curt, ordering the attorney not to bring up the matter again.

It was also suggested in court that former Judge English had offered to proffer his testimony via affidavit or deposition.

The hearing was being covered by the media including The Citizen and a videographer and reporter from the Fulton County Daily Report. If his testimony is sought via affidavit or deposition, it could be more challenging for it to be reported by the media.

Following the hearing, The Citizen subsequently learned that English was allowed to miss the hearing reportedly to attend to a family matter and also make a scheduled engagement in North Carolina the same evening as Friday’s 8 a.m. court hearing.

Judge Brantley, who is hearing cases for the circuit pending the governor appointing two new judges to replace English and Caldwell, has something in common with former Judge English: both served in the U.S. Air Force. Judge Brantley served in the United States Air Force as a Judge Advocate in the Strategic Air Command from 1965 to 1968. Former Judge English was in the USAF from 1969-1973 and was stationed in Southeast Asia from 1971-1972 before retiring as a captain.

Judge Edwards was excused from the subpoena after an attorney from the state attorney general’s office intervened on his behalf due to the fact that he remains on the bench. English resigned in April within four days of Caldwell’s resignation, two moves that stunned the entire Griffin Judicial Circuit, which includes Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties.

Several weeks ago it was revealed that then Judge English and criminal defense attorney Kim Cornwell were caught in a sexual act inside a parked car in a Fayette County subdivision in fall 2008 by a sheriff’s deputy investigating the vehicle’s presence in an abandoned subdivision.

A subsequent investigation by District Attorney Scott Ballard into the matter, ordered by Judge Edwards, was said to have revealed no improprieties among the criminal cases in which Cornwell, of the public defender’s office, had cases before Judge English.

The investigation by the Fayette County District Attorney’s office, however, focused on such cases that occurred after the affair was substantiated and did not review any cases that occurred before the affair was confirmed.

A digital video recording of the deputy’s encounter with English and Cornwell is no longer available because it has been deleted from the server at the sheriff’s department, officials have said.

Chris P. Bacon
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Susan Brown

Well, that other, lesser newspaper in this county scooped the heck out of the Citizen on Saturday by using an open records request to get a copy of the transcript of the Susan Brown / Johnnie Caldwell court hearing.

Let's just say Mrs. Brown does not come out looking very pristine in this tawdry little affair.