published Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Ex-judge who went after Dalton City Court reprimanded

  • photo
    In this file photo, Municipal Court Judge Jim Wilbanks questions an inmate during a hearing at Dalton's Correctional Center in 2003.
    Staff File Photo

A Dalton, Ga., attorney who two years ago accused the City Court of illegally supervising people on probation is being reprimanded for a conflict of interest.

Jerry Moncus, who was fired as Dalton Municipal Court judge in 2010, was ordered Monday by the Georgia Supreme Court to be publicly reprimanded for representing a man he sentenced when he was still on the bench.

In October 2010, Moncus filed a petition claiming the Dalton courts were operating illegally by improperly supervising probationers. Moncus' complaint came after Court Administrator David Hamil was forced to resign, leaving the court without any legally qualified person to oversee probation for driving under the influence charges and other misdemeanors.

Dalton City Attorney Michael Corbin then filed a petition in City Court for Moncus to be disqualified from representing Hanss Lopez. Moncus originally had sentenced the man to 48 months' probation.

A Superior Court judge will reprimand Moncus in open court at a later date.

On Monday, Moncus said he isn't happy with the Supreme Court's decision, but he will accept it.

Since current city Judge Jim Wilbanks was appointed to Moncus' position, he and Moncus have accused each other of wrongdoing. It was Wilbanks who originally filed the complaint that led to Moncus' reprimand.

In the last two years, Moncus also has criticized Wilbanks over how long people are sentenced to probation and how their bond is set. In previous interviews, Wilbanks has denied any wrongdoing.

On Monday, Wilbanks didn't return calls seeking comment.

The question of whether the court acted wrongly in the Lopez case hasn't been answered because court officials were waiting to see if Moncus would be allowed to represent Lopez. When asked about Lopez's status on Monday, a Dalton City Court employee refused to comment and said she was ordered not to talk about the case, but she didn't say who told her not to speak.

City Court employees have not been responsible for probation since Wilbanks privatized probation in 2011 through a local company, Alternative Probation Services. Company employees also refused Monday to reveal Lopez's status.

Moncus was fired as city judge in September 2010 for what city officials said was a possible conflict of interest between him and an agency that collected forfeiture bonds for City Court.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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