The judgment and impartiality of our federal judges is one of the bedrocks of our federal criminal justice system. So when it was discovered that a judge for the Federal District Court in Atlanta had been abusing drugs and made statements indicating that his decisions may have been racially motivated, it calls into question the fairness and impartiality of our federal judiciary.
The U.S. Attorney’s office recently completed an unprecedented investigation into the propriety of the judgments handed down by this federal judge. This judge had apparently been involved in a relationship with a stripper which involved snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana, and using synthetic heroin. At one point, the judge apparently accompanied the woman to a drug deal in which he carried a loaded handgun.
After an undercover FBI investigation caught the judge, he resigned from the bench and pled guilty to various charges. In addition to the concern that the judge may have been under the influence of drugs when he ruled on various federal criminal cases, there was also concern that racial bias may have played a role in his decisions. The woman with which he was involved had an African American boyfriend. A witness reported that the judge had said he had difficulty imposing sentences against African American defendants because he could not differentiate them from the boyfriend.
The investigation into the propriety of the judge’s decisions apparently did not find widespread instances of obviously improper sentences. But 11 defendants were given new trials in front of a different judge. Of these 11, five received shorter sentences than they had received previously.
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Review of 28 of disgraced judge’s cases finds no bias, impairment,” Bill Rankin and Rhonda Cook, April 12, 2012