'You mean we have to feed these people?' Remark part of judge's 'habitual intemperance,' ethics complaint says

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A Georgia judge is facing a 58-count ethics complaint alleging that he made improper gender-based and intemperate comments, tried to influence cases involving acquaintances, and participated in a promotional video and Facebook fundraiser for a children’s advocacy center.

Judge Robert Reeves of Georgia was charged in a Nov. 16 ethics complaint filed by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The alleged conduct “amounts to willful misconduct in office, habitual intemperance and is prejudicial to the administration of justice bringing the judicial office into disrepute,” said Charles P. Boring, director of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, in the complaint.

Reeves is the chief judge for the Georgia Middle Judicial Circuit Superior Court, which covers Candler, Emanuel, Jefferson, Toombs and Washington counties.

Among the allegations are that Reeves:

    • Commented about a lunch break for inmates, saying, “You mean we have to feed these people?” or words to that effect. Several supporters of the inmates in the courtroom became visibly upset after the comment.

    • Whistled at a female employee walking on a street outside her office and said words to the effect of: “What’s a pretty girl like you doing walking alone?” Reeves referred to the employee as “Miss America,” and he regularly touched her shoulders, rubbed her back and tried to hug her, the complaint alleged. One time when the employee sought a signature on a document, Reeves allegedly told her that he would sign if she smiled. The employee began having another person accompany her when she had contact with Reeves.

    • Said an assistant public defender had to decide whether she wanted to be a full-time mother or a full-time attorney because she couldn’t do both.

    • Commented to a female lawyer after her husband injured his back on vacation: “If you didn’t do the stuff you see on TV, … you know, one foot on the nightstand and one foot way over here, he wouldn’t hurt his back,” or words to that effect.

    • Commented during a virtual meeting that he expected women to wear bathrobes and bathing suits during virtual hearings.

    • Used a word sometimes used to describe a mentally disabled person to refer to a Black court attendee who tried to leave the courtroom after Reeves told everyone to remain seated.

    • Commented during a court proceeding involving an inmate whose first name was similar to the word “innocence” words to the effect of: “I guess that name didn’t take.”

    • Said he would have to “double up” on his sentencing to make up for another judge who was too lenient.

    • Said words to the effect of: “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” after a female public defender left the courthouse crying. Reeves had chastised the lawyer and other overworked public defenders for failure to prepare paperwork properly.

    • Told a female employee he passed in the courthouse parking lot that she had “really nice legs.”

    • Had ex parte communications with a prosecutor in which he told her to either dismiss or add charges in her cases.

    • Contacted a judge on behalf of an acquaintance and sought reduction of traffic offenses.

    • Called a prosecutor regarding a case involving 20 college students trespassing on private property and discussed the cases of two of the students.

    • Made a promotional video for the Sunshine House children’s advocacy center that identified him as a superior court judge. The Sunshine House’s volunteers and employees regularly testify in cases in Reeves’ circuit.

    • Co-hosted the Sunshine House’s Facebook Give-a-Thon fundraiser. The beginning of the fundraiser identifies Reeves as a judge.

Reeves did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal voicemail seeking comment. His lawyer, Lester Tate, did not immediately respond to an ABA Journal email.

Hat tip to Law360 and the Advance, which had coverage of the complaint.

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