Judge Who Acted with ‘Unconscionable Arrogance’ Must Retire or Face Suspension

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A 68-year-old judge who flipped the bird, used vulgar language and made insensitive racial and sexist jokes must retire or face a six-month unpaid suspension, the South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled.

If Judge A.P. “Pete” Fuller of Rapid City accepts the suspension, he will also be placed on probation and will have to undergo additional therapy for behavioral problems, according to the Associated Press and the Rapid City Journal.

“Judge Fuller has maligned the reputation of South Dakota’s judiciary,” the opinion says. He “has insulted individual lawyers, has uttered insensitive racial and sexist jokes, has conducted himself on the bench with unconscionable arrogance, has used abusive language, has rudely mistreated employees.”

Fuller is a former member of the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The original complaint against Fuller alleged he called police “a bunch of racists” and then defended his remarks by saying “the allegations are true.” According to the opinion (PDF), the resulting investigation also found that Fuller:

• Called one lawyer an “asshole” while in chambers and flipped him the bird in a court hearing, causing the lawyer’s client to be “greatly concerned.”

• Told an intern that the legal profession was better off before women joined it. The intern thought the comment was a joke but still took offense.

Some lawyers who supported Fuller said he was no worse than some of the other judges they appeared before, according to the opinion. The court said the judicial canons recognize no “lowest common denominator” standard of judicial conduct or defense.

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “SD Judge Faces Potential Removal Over Alleged Rude and Racist Remarks and Use of the ‘Bird’ “

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