Criminal defense attorneys seek review of ex-judge Camp’s rulings

In November, senior federal judge Jack T. Camp of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia pled guilty to a federal drug felony and two misdemeanors after he was caught buying cocaine and other illegal drugs while involved in a sexual relationship with an exotic dancer. Camp, 67, who has stepped down from the bench, said at his sentencing hearing that misdiagnosed bipolar disorder and a brain injury from a bicycle accident 10 years ago may have contributed to his poor judgment.

Now, federal criminal defense attorneys across Georgia are wondering if his judgment was impaired when he oversaw criminal trials, plea agreements and sentencing. If so, numerous criminal defendants’ Fifth Amendment rights to due process of law may have been violated.

“Every case he handled from the time he was misdiagnosed, or before, depending on when he was affected by these conditions, should be re-evaluated,” criminal defense and federal appeals lawyer Marcia G. Shein told the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

“The question is: Did these conditions affect his ability to be an objective judge making fair decisions?”

Camp’s attorney denies his judicial reasoning was affected, but justice may require criminal cases to be reviewed

While Camp’s mental illness and brain injury may have affected his impulse control, it did not compromise his ability to fairly hear criminal cases and sentence defendants, asserts Bill Morrison, one of Camp’s lawyers. “Nothing impaired his ability to fairly and impartially act as a judge; I’m fully prepared to defend any judicial decision he made,” he said.

Georgia’s federal criminal defense attorneys are not so sure, and U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates has said she will not oppose requests for rehearings on cases Camp heard while he was using marijuana, cocaine, Xanax and roxicontin.

Of the 16 criminal defendants sentenced by Camp during that period, five have already asked to have their sentences reconsidered, and one has apparently had his sentence reduced as a result.

Other criminal defense lawyers believe it would be best to review Camp’s decisions dating from 2000, when he sustained the brain injury and was wrongly diagnosed with depression.

In a March 9 court filing, Camp’s own lawyers said “The untreated mood cycling disorder and the trauma to the temporal lobe of his brain … are serious and unambiguous factors affecting judgment.”

One federal defender says she began having concerns about Camp’s mental health as early as 2007, when he openly chastised a defense lawyer in front of the jury, and she appealed the case on that basis. The appeal was unsuccessful, however.

While psychiatrists interviewed by the Atlanta Journal Constitution disagree on whether the judge’s mental illness and brain injury are likely to have affected his decisions on the bench, the issue is serious enough that it is likely to lead to a large number of federal appeals.

Camp is also accused of racial bias in some cases, because he told the exotic dancer during the affair that he struggled when deciding criminal cases involving African-American men. Camp denies any bias, but several appeals are already in motion on racial bias grounds.

U.S. Attorney Yates told the AJC that her office will consider requests for rehearings based on Camp’s judgment “to ensure that justice is served.”

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Lawyers ask for review of ex-judge Camp’s rulings, sentences,” Bill Rankin, March 23, 2011