Judges can behave badly, too -- sometimes, very badly.
Earlier this month, police arrested Judge Mark Fuller of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama on suspicion of misdemeanor battery. Fuller had allegedly beaten his wife, who called 911 from a hotel. Fuller, however said his wife was the one who became violent when she accused him of cheating on her with a law clerk, reported the Montgomery Advertiser.
Last week, Fuller got some more bad news: The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals weighed in, sending Fuller a judicial misconduct complaint it had received and asking him to respond, according to The Associated Press. The Eleventh Circuit also reassigned Fuller's outstanding cases and ordered that he not receive new cases.
'Law and Order'
Now appears to be a prime opportunity for Fuller's critics to come out of the woodwork. Fuller is known for imposing maximum sentences in criminal cases whenever he can, according to an open letter to Atlanta municipal court judges authored by Alabama State University trustee Donald Watkins.
Watkins' letter, published on Facebook, claimed that defendants in Fuller's courtroom don't receive a fair trial and that "his friends in the judiciary" will "attempt to influence the outcome of his case."
No Stranger to Questions
While Watkins' letter is long on conclusions and short on facts, Fuller has been accused of having questionable ethics before.
Fuller came to prominence in 2006 when he presided over the corruption trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Scott Horton of Harper's wrote at length about what he viewed as inconsistencies throughout the trial, believing that Fuller treated Siegelman badly, denying motions that he routinely granted to others, and failing to recuse himself even though he had a controlling interest in a company that made its money from government contracts.
Horton also noted that 54 former state attorneys general petitioned Congress to open an investigation into the case.
What's Next for Fuller?
Fuller remains an Article III judge until he is impeached or resigns. That means he is still being paid even though he isn't hearing any cases.
There's no indication from the Eleventh Circuit as to what, precisely, it plans to do with him if he's found guilty. Only 15 Article III judges have been impeached in the history of the United States.
As for Fuller, his lawyer told the Advertiser the judge is "taking steps to address the situation," including counseling, but he has no plans to step down.
- Alabama judge could avoid prosecution in Atlanta (Birmingham, Alabama's WIAT-TV)
- Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge's 'Grudge,' Evidence Shows (The Huffington Post)
- Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Resigns Amid Porn Scandal (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Judge Gone Wild: Judge Salcido Turned Court Into Reality Show (FindLaw's Strategist)