Legal Ethics

Beleaguered Ga. Judge Won't Respond to Prosecutors' Filing in Nichols Case

A respected Georgia judge under fire for requiring the state to pay defense costs it says it can’t afford in a complex capital murder trial won’t contest a state supreme court filing seeking to force him off the case.

Instead, Superior Court Judge Hilton M. Fuller Jr. has sent a one-page letter to the supreme court, saying that he doesn’t believe it’s appropriate for him to become involved in a war of words with the prosecution in a pending trial, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The case that has created the furor concerns a March 11, 2005 courthouse shooting in which four people, including a Fulton County judge, were murdered. Defendant Brian Nichols faces a 54-count indictment, and, despite free and reduced-fee legal services provided by some of his attorneys, has already reportedly racked up a legal bill of well over $1 million on the state’s account.

As discussed in earlier posts, the prosecutors contend that the judge has exceeded his authority in defense-funding matters by requiring Georgia to pay defense fees in excess of a funding cap. (Fuller has halted the trial and initiated contempt proceedings because Nichols’ lawyers aren’t being paid.)

Meanwhile, some legislators—who say the current defense cost tab is closer to $2 million—are pursuing possible impeachment of the judge.

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