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Georgia judge facing potential hearing on ethics charges

January 2, 2022 GMT

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia appeals court judge is facing the possibility of a final hearing on ethics charges after a state panel refused to dismiss them, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Judge Christian Coomer is accused of drafting a series of wills for a former law client that were favorable to Coomer. A holding company Coomer controlled also accepted hundreds of thousands dollars of loans with extremely favorable terms from the same client, according to a lawsuit by the client.

The ethics charges by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission include the will and loan allegations. They also accuse Coomer of failing to disclose his outstanding debts to the client on a mortgage application.

Coomer is a former member of the state House from Cartersville. In court filings, his lawyers said their client denies any wrongdoing. They also said the state judicial watchdog agency had no jurisdiction over misconduct allegations that stem from Coomer’s work as a private attorney. He became a judge in 2018.

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But a Judicial Qualifications Commission panel rejected that argument in a recent decision, the AJC reported.

Commissioner Robert McBurney, a Fulton County Superior Court judge, said commission rules clearly allow the agency to investigate and bring charges over alleged misconduct that preceded the judge’s time on the bench.

“Unlawful or otherwise wrongful pre-judicial conduct is perfectly capable of eroding the public’s perception and confidence in the judiciary,” McBurney wrote. He was joined in the decision by Jamala McFadden, an Atlanta attorney, and Michael Register, assistant chief of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office.

A final hearing for Coomer is expected to be scheduled for some time in 2022. McBurney, McFadden and Register would preside over it.

If they found Coomer violated the code of judicial conduct, they could recommend the Georgia Supreme Court remove him from office. Coomer agreed to a suspension from his judicial work when the commission filed charges against him a year ago, but is still earning his salary.

He has previously agreed to pay a $25,000 fine to settle ethics charges that he spent campaign funds for personal use.