JQC Dismisses Complaints of Thomason, Stookey, Doss and the GCSPJ Against Judge Brenda S. Weaver
In Summer 2016, complaints were submitted to the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) by Mark Thomason, the creator of a local publication called "Fannin Focus," his attorney Russell Stookey, Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss, and the Georgia Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists accusing Judge Brenda S. Weaver, Chief Judge of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit of abusing her judicial position, of willful misconduct, and of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice bringing her office into disrepute.
The Investigative Panel of the JQC finds no grounds for discipline under Article VI, Section VII, Paragraph VII (A) of the Georgia Constitution of 1983 and Rule 6A of the Interim Rules of the Judicial Qualifications Commission of Georgia. Panel members Edward D. Tolley and Richard Hyde recused.
Below is the Conclusion of the Dismissal Upon Preliminary Investigation:
No evidence has been presented to show any violation of the Code of Judicial Ethics by Judge Weaver. Instead, the evidence appears to show a personal dislike of the Judge. For instance, Stookey himself stated that he is “spreading wild stories which are not true but it will give them something to be excited about and I am feeding the cheese eating rat bastards as much as I may.” He goes on to ask for help in this effort and promises to those who take up his cause that “[i]t will be fun.” In a representative Facebook posting, Stookey wrote, “the FBI has done a great job and Mark and I get new evidence each week. If this goes as we think it will there will be job openings from Blue Ridge to Ellijay. That is not up to me or we would have bodies hanging from street lights now.” The JQC has grave concern about the statements and conduct by Stookey in this matter. The FBI did investigate the allegations raised by Stookey and Thomason but found no wrongdoing.
The complainants, including the GCSCJ, have attempted to portray Judge Weaver as mounting some kind of attack on the freedom of the press. From the JQC’s perspective, nothing could be further from the truth. Calling oneself a “journalist” and “reporter” should not be a cover for pursuing personal vendettas. The JQC has long been an advocate for the freedom of the press particularly regarding open courtrooms and the fundamental right of the public to have access to the actions and recordsof the courts. The integrity of the press is essential to the functioning of a democratic society.
It is likewise essential to our freedoms to maintain the integrity of the judiciary.
Needlessly or maliciously attacking a sitting judge in print without any factual or legal basis perverts and undermines the fair administration of justice and public trust in its judiciary. It is just as much the JQC’s responsibility to ensure that integrity is maintained by supporting a judge who has been falsely accused as it is to sanction a judge.
The complaints of Thomason, Stookey, Doss and the GCSPJ are meritless and without any basis in law or fact. The complaints are nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to enlist the JQC in their fixation upon harming Judge Weaver. The JQC will have no further part in it. All complaints are hereby dismissed.
CLICK FOR FULL DISMISSAL (PDF)