Judge J. William Bass Sr. of the Grady County State Court has been under investigation for two years for multiple claims of misconduct, although he disputes allegations against him.
A panel of seven will determine what should happen, starting today.
The Judicial Qualifications Commission, a panel assembled as a result of an amendment to the state constitution, has two members appointed by the Georgia Supreme Court, two by the governor and three by the Georgia Bar Association. Three of the seven members — Linda Evans, Robert Ingram and Richard Hyde — are from Cobb County.
The commission enforces a code of conduct, Ingram said, and can enter various types of discipline such as private reprimand, public reprimand, temporary suspension or removal of a judge from his or her position. A judge’s bar status is a separate issue, Ingram said, and the State Bar of Georgia could investigate Bass as well.
“We won’t know until after the trial whether the commission even determines that sanctions are appropriate,” Ingram said. “The commission will go into the trial with an open mind.”
Maggie Crutchfield, owner of Red Hills Community Probation in Grady County, filed complaints to the Judicial Qualifications Commission in 2011, she said. Crutchfield’s clients reported to Bass.
“His behavior was not becoming of a state court judge,” Crutchfield said. “There was misconduct and inconsistency with dealing with probations.”
Crutchfield said there were times when Bass would question someone’s sexuality or bring Hispanics into a separate room with a translator but no court reporter.
After Crutchfield filed complaints to the commission, an investigator anonymously attended hearings in Bass’ courtroom and found probable cause to address Crutchfield’s allegations.
“I was looking out for my county,” Crutchfield said. “I’m not here to say what should happen.”
Counsel for the JQC includes Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rickman and former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers.
Christopher Townley of Rossville represents Bass.
Cobb County Court Administrator Tom Charron said Cobb was chosen because the courtroom can accommodate the entire commission. The room is booked today, Thursday, and Friday if needed.
Few cases make it as far as a trial, Charron said.
Legal filings by the JQC counsel include 11 counts of willful misconduct in office.
Counts include unauthorized order of collection of funds as administrative costs for criminal defendants; advancing his private interest by requesting a salary increase in the amount of funds improperly collected by State Court; illegally exacting payments from defendants; improperly sentencing defendants; mixing personal relationships; reducing penalties for friends; soliciting votes while on the bench; becoming verbally hostile and treating court employees belligerently.
The hearing begins at 9 a.m. today at the Cobb County Superior Court on Haynes Street.