|Judge Mark Fuller|
Mark Fuller, the federal judge who presided over the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, faces a divorce complaint that strongly hints at extramarital affairs, illicit drug use, driving under the influence, and other misconduct.
Lisa Boyd Fuller filed for divorce on May 10, 2012, and court filings since then point to serious allegations against her husband. (See the divorce complaint at the end of this post.) Will the divorce case raise questions about Mark Fuller's fitness to be a U.S. district judge? Will it provide an avenue for Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy to have their convictions overturned?
It's too early to know the answers to those questions. But Bob Martin, editor of the Montgomery Independent, shows in an article published yesterday that the divorce case might raise significant trouble for Fuller, a George W. Bush appointee who oversaw what has been described as the most notorious political prosecution in American history.
At the heart of the Fuller divorce case is an alleged affair between the judge and a female court deputy. From Bob Martin's article:
Divorce can be triggered by many reasons but it is usually initiated, not by a single event, but a long-term abuse of trust. The long term abuse of trust by Judge Fuller, described to me from sources inside the United States Courthouse in Montgomery and others continues today, and has lasted at least four-to-five years. It involves a former female courtroom deputy in her late thirties with children ages 9 and 14. Her husband obtained a divorce several months ago. Fuller and his wife separated last August. They have two grown children and one teenager.
During most of the time this “not-so-secret affair" was going on, Fuller was the presiding judge of the U. S. District Court based in Montgomery. He rotated into that position the third year after he was appointed by President George W. Bush, and completed his seven-year term a year-and-a-half ago. He presided in the trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy.
In a companion piece to his column, Martin identifies Fuller's mistress as a woman named Kelli Gregg. From the Martin report:
Those in a position to know, report that the affair by Judge Fuller, conducted with his former Courtroom Deputy Clerk and bailiff, Kelli Gregg, has been ongoing for four or five years and is basically an “open secret” in the building. Ms. Gregg, who has two children, was divorced by her husband about six months ago.
Sources in a position to know tell the newspaper that Fuller and Gregg have traveled together extensively, including trips to Dothan, New York, Tallahassee and perhaps Las Vegas.
Scott Horton, legal affairs contributor at Harper's, has written extensively about the Siegelman case and Fuller's apparent conflicts of interest. What might the allegations of an affair mean for Fuller? Martin put that question to Horton and received this answer:
“When a judge uses his position to extract sexual favors from a court officer under his authority, such conduct could easily be viewed as predatory and possibly even criminal but it doesn’t necessarily follow that because a sexual liaison has arisen that the person in a senior position used his office to advantage. The facts would have to be studied more carefully. But even if the relationship were purely innocent, one would have to be worried about the unwholesome appearance of a federal judge engaging in a sexual tryst with his court officer."
Issues raised in Lisa Boyd Fuller's court filings go well beyond an affair. (See Ms. Fuller's interrogatories for her husband at the end of this post.) Writes Martin:
In her complaint Lisa Fuller asks for the following admissions by her husband. They include these topics: extramarital affairs, parenting, driving under the influence of alcohol, withholding documents, payment of expenses for persons with whom he was having sex, spousal abuse, receipt of psychological care or counseling, and addiction to prescription drugs. To my knowledge the answers to those questions had not been filed at the time this column was written.
All of this could raise profound questions for parties who came before Fuller--and for those who worked with and around him in Montgomery's federal courthouse. From Scott Horton, via Bob Martin's piece:
The current allegations of abuse of office and subpoenas for prescription drugs at numerous pharmacies could possibly bring into question every judgment he has issued and every trial over which he has presided. Keep in mind, of course, that these are yet only allegations which may not ultimately bear out.
Another issue would be whether others close to the court knew of his indiscretions and used them to extort favorable court decisions. There are several prior cases, including one still under investigation involving a federal judge in Florida, in which a judge had a secret liaison with a court officer and other parties, which was apparently used to extort favorable rulings. In the Fuller matter it would be hard to see how the U. S. Attorney’s office would not know about the affair. If the U. S. Attorney knew and did nothing, holding this as a sort of a sword over the judge’s head, such would undermine the legitimacy of all the criminal matters and some civil matters involving government interests that came before Fuller.
The U.S. attorney in question, of course, is notorious Bush appointee Leura Canary, who served for more than two years of the Obama administration and took a job with the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) earlier this year under curious circumstances.
The Fuller divorce case also might shine light on the judge's ownership interest in Doss Aviation, a Colorado-based company that has received numerous lucrative government contracts. Under the law, Doss Aviation is likely to be seen as a marital asset that is to be divided equitably--and Lisa Boyd Fuller, understandably, will want her share. That might shine unwelcome light on Fuller's ties to a company that has benefited greatly from federal dollars, calling into question the judge's objectivity on many cases that come before him. Again from Horton, via Bob Martin:
Aside from this we have to take into account the unprecedented circumstance of Fuller’s ownership in Doss Aviation, a major source of his income, perhaps more so than his judicial salary. Doss Aviation appears to benefit from a steady stream of Department of Defense and other federal contracts some awarded on no-bid contracts under highly suspicious circumstances.
These ethics issues surrounding a single judge, Mark Everett Fuller, are to my knowledge, without any equal on the federal bench.
Is Mark Fuller a compromised judge of epic proportions? That's what Scott Horton seems to be saying. And Lisa Boyd Fuller's divorce case might help prove it.
What does all of this mean? For an excellent overview of the Fuller divorce story and its many implications, I strongly recommend the most recent piece by Andrew Kreig, at the Justice-Integrity Project. You can check it out at the following link:
Andrew Kreig: Alabama Judicial Scandal Could Taint Many Cases, Not Just Siegelman's
(Photo: Phil Fleming)
Mark Fuller Divorce Complaint
Mark Fuller Divorce Interrogatories