Former Rockdale County District Attorney Cheryl Custer spoke about her work as director of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission to a local group Wednesday and of the challenges facing her office in enforcing judicial ethics across the state.
Custer was the guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Rockdale County as part of the club’s recognition of March as National Women’s History Month. Custer was the first woman to serve as a district attorney in Georgia when she was appointed by Gov. Zell Miller in 1991. She has served as director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission since 1999. Custer was among those considered for the Georgia Supreme Court to replace retiring Chief Justice Leah Sears Ward.
Custer explained the job of the commission is to enforce the cannons of conduct for all judges in Georgia. Anyone can file a complaint against a judge which can be challenging for her office. The commission is comprised of a seven-member volunteer board of judges, attorneys and non-lawyer residents charged with investigating judicial misconduct.
The commission has two employees — Custer and an assistant — to handle the case load that covers 1,800 sitting judges across the state. The most recent case of the commission removing a sitting judge involved Twiggs County Probate Judge Kenneth Fowler, who was accused of abusing his office on 16 counts, including establishing a higher set of fines for out-of-county residents and insinuating that a female defendant on traffic charges provided sexual favors to a Georgia state trooper.
Custer said those examples of bad behavior are rare on the bench but cause damage to the reputation of all who serve as a judge from traffic court to Superior Court.
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Former DA Gives Talk on Ethics