published Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Barred Georgia judge earned more than $70,000 on paid leave

Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters listens during an April hearing where the state sought to remove him from bench for erratic behavior. The Tuesday Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous opinion barred Peters from ever holding another judicial office in Georgia.
Magistrate Judge Anthony Peters listens during an April hearing where the state sought to remove him from bench for erratic behavior. The Tuesday Georgia Supreme Court's unanimous opinion barred Peters from ever holding another judicial office in Georgia.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Georgia magistrate who blamed marijuana and prescription drugs for the "rough patch" in his life that made him point a gun at himself in the Catoosa County courthouse was formally removed from the office Tuesday.

But not before the former judge earned more than $70,000 during the last 14 months while he was on paid administrative leave.

In a unanimous opinion issued Tuesday, the Georgia Supreme Court ordered County Magistrate Court Judge Anthony Peters "be immediately and permanently removed from the bench and be barred from ever holding or seeking elected or appointed judicial office in Georgia."

"There's a saying that sometimes the wheels of justice are slow and deliberate, and this case shows you that," said Catoosa County Attorney Chad Young. "The only entity that can remove a judge from office is the [Georgia] Supreme Court."

Peters has been on paid administrative leave since June 16, 2010, according to the Supreme Court's order. In that time, he has not worked but continued to draw his $5,056 monthly salary, amassing roughly $72,000 to $73,000, according to the county administration office.

Neither Peters nor his attorney Chris Townley returned calls for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Young said the county had not hired anyone to replace Peters during the 14 months, instead allowing Chief Magistrate Judge Donald "Sonny" Caldwell and two other deputy magistrates to handle the workload.

Young said it will be up to Caldwell whether Peters will be replaced now.

Caldwell, through a secretary, declined to comment on the Peters case.

During a hearing in the spring, Peters told members of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission that the violations took place during a "rough patch" in his life. Townley blamed the judge's behavior on prescription drug abuse in the aftermath of a 2005 ATV accident.

The Supreme Court, in its seven-page opinion, was not convinced.

"Notwithstanding Judge Peters' personal belief that he had been disciplined 'enough' by having been placed on paid administrative leave ... the record reveals that Judge Peters has not sought treatment and has done nothing to show he has any ability to live up to the high standard of conduct expected of members of the judiciary in Georgia," the opinion states.

The court agreed with the Judicial Qualifications Commission's finding that Peters was unfit to serve on the bench and its recommendation that he be removed.

He "disregarded the law as applied to his own conduct" and took actions that "eroded public trust and confidence in the judiciary," the court opinion states.

The commission had investigated 13 counts of judicial misconduct filed against Peters, who was appointed a Catoosa magistrate in 1997. All charges stemmed from incidents that occurred between 2008 and 2010.

Allegations also included an incident in which he kicked in the doors at the residence of his sister-in-law's estranged husband, as well as an appearance in 2010 on a local cable television show during which he called the chief magistrate judge "spineless" and revealed the identity of a confidential informant of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office, according to Jane Hansen, spokeswoman for the Supreme Court of Georgia.

He also called a local TV station to rant in a foreign accent about the sheriff. While the sheriff was being interviewed on a TV talk show, Peters called in and, disguising his voice with various foreign accents, called the sheriff a "spineless Jelly spine," Hansen said.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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jxlanger said...

Peters was an arrogant idiot who thought he was above the law. The Georgia State Supreme Court done the right thing by kicking this overpaid fool out of office. Some role model this guy turned out to be.

September 7, 2011 at 1:21 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

spmeone should investigate Ron Durby and his thug deputy for lying in hamilton county. but he is either too drunk or senile to hear what is said much less comprehend it. Don't expect justice form the courts in this area, too corrupt.

September 7, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.
harrystatel said...

Judges/crooks/ or crooks/judges? Remind me, which one wears the black robes?

September 7, 2011 at 1:46 p.m.
Charles0390 said...

Am i the only person that see's something very wrong with this picture?Give me a break,70,000 paid leave for participating in numerous illegal activity's?No wonder this country is falling to pieces

September 7, 2011 at 6:44 p.m.
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