Evidence made public so far strongly suggests that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (Middle District of Alabama) lied to police officers about his actions in an alleged domestic assault against his wife at an Atlanta hotel room. Now, a judicial-ethics expert says judges can be impeached if found guilty of making false statements.
Russell E. Carparelli, executive director of the American Judicature Society at Vanderbilt University, told the Associated Press that Fuller will continue to be paid while the U.S. 11th Circuit investigates the incident. Carparelli then spelled out the usual disciplinary process for a federal judge:
The federal judicial code of conduct says a judge "should maintain and enforce high standards of conduct and should personally observe those standards, so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."Is Carparelli contradicting himself? Yes. Is he trying to protect Fuller? Probably. Is he not familiar with all of the facts made public about the case? Our guess is that he probably is not.
The code doesn't spell out disciplinary actions in cases where a judge is arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Following an investigation and review by the circuit judicial council, he said, a judge found to have violated judicial conduct rules could be reprimanded or censured or asked to retire. Ultimately, a circuit could recommend the impeachment of a judge who refuses to quit.
Impeachment is generally reserved for judges who make false statements, take bribes or do other things to corrupt the judiciary, not those involved in domestic altercations, Carparelli said.
"Typically this type of thing would not go there," he said.
News reports have stated that Fuller told police he "just pushed" his wife and was acting only to defend himself. But a recording of Kelli Gregg Fuller's 911 call seems to tell a different story. On the call, Kelli Fuller can be heard telling emergency dispatchers that she was being beaten and needed an ambulance. That indicates Mark Fuller did more than just defend himself. The tape suggests he was beating his wife, and it sounds like that's what is going on in the background of the 911 call. Kelli Fuller's injuries, as described in press reports (cuts on her mouth and forehead) indicate she had been struck.
In his overall statement to AP, Russell Carparelli seems to be downplaying Fuller's actions, writing it off as a mere "domestic altercation." But in Carparelli's own words, making false statements can cost a federal judge his job. And Mark Fuller appears to have made false statements to police, which can be a felony under Georgia law.
Will the 11th circuit take Fuller's actions seriously or try to sweep them under the judicial carpet?