BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama federal judge stripped of his caseload following his arrest on domestic violence charges in Atlanta will continue receiving his annual salary of nearly $200,000.
Federal rules on judicial conduct and discipline don't include a provision for withholding the pay of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery, and the court system can't quit paying a judge just because he was arrested, said judicial ethics expert Russell E. Carparelli. A circuit judicial council is looking into whether Fuller should be disciplined.
"During this course he will continue to receive his salary," said Carparelli, a former state court judge in Colorado and the executive director of the American Judicature Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
John Carroll, a former federal magistrate judge and dean of Cumberland Law School at Samford University, agreed. Each federal court circuit has a chief judge and a council composed of judges that consider disciplinary actions against federal judges, but judges continue receiving their pay as long as they retain their title, said Carroll.
District judges like Fuller are paid $199,100 annually, according to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts in Washington. They are appointed for life.
A woman who answered the telephone at Fuller's office on Friday declined comment.
Atlanta police arrested Fuller, 55, early Sunday and charged him with misdemeanor battery after his wife called 911 from a hotel and said he was beating her. Mark Fuller told police that his wife became violent as she confronted him with allegations of cheating.
Fuller was released from jail and posted a $5,000 bond. He must appear in court next Friday.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a brief statement on Wednesday saying Fuller was being relieved of his caseload and wouldn't receive any new cases, but court officials haven't responded to questions about Fuller's status.
Carparelli said the silence is part of the process.
"Generally speaking, when there is an allegation against a judge they are confidential until a decision has been made," he said.
The federal judicial code of conduct says a judge "should maintain and enforce high standards of conduct and should personally observe those standards, so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."
The code doesn't spell out disciplinary actions in cases where a judge is arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Following an investigation and review by the circuit judicial council, he said, a judge found to have violated judicial conduct rules could be reprimanded or censured or asked to retire. Ultimately, a circuit could recommend the impeachment of a judge who refuses to quit.
Impeachment is generally reserved for judges who make false statements, take bribes or do other things to corrupt the judiciary, not those involved in domestic altercations, Carparelli said.
"Typically this type of thing would not go there," he said.
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