published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Georgia judicial panel says Catoosa judge should go

Report of the Judicial Qualifications Commission
Report of the Judicial Qualifications Commission

A Catoosa County, Ga., judge who admitted to using marijuana and insulting local officials on television is unfit to serve on the bench, the state agency that investigates judges has decided.

After months of investigation and a rare two-day trial, the Judicial Qualifications Commission recommended in a report released Tuesday that Magistrate Anthony Peters be removed from his position and be barred from ever seeking a judicial office in the state.

“The testimony at the hearing revealed that Peters’ erratic and irrational behavior eroded confidence in his ability to be a judge,” the commission’s report stated.

Peters, who was appointed as a magistrate in 1997, was charged in February with 13 counts of judicial misconduct. The charges, which include pointing a gun at his own head in another judge’s office and abusing his authority, stemmed from incidents that occurred between 2008 and 2010.

Just minutes after learning about the commission’s decision on Tuesday, Peters said he hoped the Georgia Supreme Court would see his side.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said.

Peters has 30 days to file a petition asking the Georgia Supreme Court to modify or reject the commission’s recommendation, commission director Jeff Davis said.

During Peters’ hearing in April, he told the five-member panel that he made poor decisions while he was taking several prescribed painkillers for a back injury. For about three months, he also smoked marijuana on a weekly basis to relieve the pain, he said.

But during that time, Peters argued he never abused his authority on the bench or pointed a gun at his head saying, “I’m not afraid to die, are you?”

“That never happened,” he testified in court.

But in the commission’s conclusion, the panel found that Peters couldn’t remember other events around the time and that Judge Vic Wells, who witnessed the incident, was a credible source.

The commission acknowledged that Peters was going through a difficult time, but in its written statements said it couldn’t ignore his public outbreaks.

“Magistrate judges are often the only face of the judicial system members of the public will ever see,” the commission’s concluded.

After Peters was hauled out of the courthouse in June and not allowed to return to work, he went on television and called his boss, Chief Magistrate Donald “Sonny” Caldwell, “spineless.” Peters later called in to the same show pretending to have a foreign accent and called Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers “a spineless ... jelly spine.”

Even Peters’ own friend, Larry Stagg, admitted on the witness stand that last summer the judge “almost went Charlie Sheen,” the report stated.

All of Peters’ arguments were not persuasive to justify his actions, the report said.

“Peters’ airing of his grievances against all those in the judicial system ... brought discredit upon the entire judiciary and eroded public confidence in the very court he took an oath to serve,” the commission stated.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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timesfreepress said...

Do you agree with the Judicial Qualifications Commission's recommendation to remove Anthony Peters?

May 10, 2011 at 11:48 p.m.
PMac said...

welcome to Norh GA politics -- If they are going to look into him there are other judges that have been stopped for DUI but let go because who they were. When I go vote I always hope and pray that someone will have the guts to run against a few of the judges in North GA -- so far no one so I have to do a write in so I do not have to vote for judges that drink and drive.

May 11, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
spendy said...

pMac, that is so true. Good ole' boys at their finest.

May 11, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.
rolando said...

Isn't that the county whose judges figured so prominently in the news a while back? Arguing amongst themselves, the woman falsely accused of molesting girls? Refusing to recuse themselves for obvious conflict of interest?

Sounds like the house cleaning may be beginning...or not.

May 11, 2011 at 3:40 p.m.
sscholfield said...

Like all citizens, judges have the first amendment right to free speech, but if a judge announces a position on an issue or admits to breaking the law it seems to me the judge's impartiality and integrity may be called into question. Don't know if this has as much to do with "politics" as it does with plain and simple common sense.

May 11, 2011 at 6:26 p.m.
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