The court’s September 6, 2011 decision followed the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC), which initiated an investigation and hearing after receiving complaints from, among others, Chief Magistrate Judge Donald “Sonny” Caldwell. The JQC’s formal complaint accused Peters of seven violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Peters admitted to the first count, that from March to May 2010 he smoked marijuana at least once a week. The second charge was that he inappropriately used his judicial office to advance the personal interests of a family member by showing up at the house of his sister-in-law’s estranged husband, identifying himself as a judge, and then kicking in two interior doors at the man’s home to gain access to the bedrooms.
The third misconduct count accused Peters of pulling a gun in the spring of 2009 at the courthouse and pointing it at himself in the presence of another judge, while saying “I’m not scared. Are you all scared?”
The fourth charge involved a June 21, 2010 appearance on a cable TV show called Night Talk. On the show, Peters called Caldwell “spineless” and publicly disclosed that he had filed a complaint with the JQC against the chief magistrate judge. He also displayed a photograph of an individual and identified him as a confidential informant for the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office.
The next day, Peters called into a local cable show while the sheriff was being interviewed. After initially disguising his voice with foreign accents, he told the sheriff he had “crapped himself” and was a “spineless jelly spine,” which was the basis for the fifth JQC misconduct charge.
The sixth count accused Peters of refusing to work hours that had been assigned to him by the chief magistrate judge. Finally, “based on all of the proven allegations,” Peters was charged with being unable to establish, maintain and enforce high standards of conduct to preserve the judiciary’s integrity and independence.
His attorney said that Peters’ odd behavior – which reportedly included shaving his head and eyebrows – was due to prescription drug abuse following an ATV accident in 2005.
The state Supreme Court found that evidence in the record clearly established the violations and Peters had admitted to much of the misconduct. While Peters felt that being placed on paid administrative leave was “enough” discipline, the court disagreed. Noting that “after using illegal drugs, forcibly kicking in doors at a man’s home at the request of a relative, pulling out a gun in front of at least one of his colleagues, and being suspended from his job for refusing to work hours properly assigned to him,” Peters had “consistently refused to take responsibility for his actions.”
Accordingly, he was ordered permanently removed from the bench. The decision by the Georgia Supreme Court was unanimous. See: Inquiry Concerning Judge Anthony Peters, 289 Ga. 633, 715 S.E.2d 56 (Ga. 2011).
In June 2012, Peters filed a federal lawsuit claming that Chief Magistrate Judge Caldwell had tried to demote him, and had conspired with the county sheriff to have him removed from office. The suit alleged that Caldwell assigned him to a night shift, had him arrested when he refused and then suspended him. The case was dismissed on Sept. 10, 2012 on the defendants’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim. See: Peters v. Caldwell, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ga.), Case No. 4:12-cv-00149-HLM.
Peters was not an attorney; he had worked as a detective for the sheriff’s office before being appointed as a magistrate judge in 1997.
Additional sources: www.dailymail.co.uk, www.timesfreepress.com
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Related legal cases
Peters v. Caldwell
|U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ga.), Case No. 4:12-cv-00149-HLM
Inquiry Concerning Judge Anthony Peters
|289 Ga. 633, 715 S.E.2d 56 (Ga. 2011)
|State Supreme Court