Arrogance Without Accountability – Georgia's Municipal Court Judges
Case in Point - Bowdon GA Municipal Court
Most people are stunned when I tell them that there is absolutely no accountability insofar as our municipal court judges are concerned. The same people who hire all of the police officers and the prosecutor appoint them; and the result is what was recently witnessed in Bowdon Georgia Municipal Court.
Judge Richard A. Diment has apparently been acting as a debt collector for the City of Bowdon. Recently, during court, he was seen on video threatening the unemployed and mentally ill with jail unless they found a way to pay fines they had no way of paying. Now, as a result of that video, he has implemented "radical" reforms such as advising people of their right to an attorney, or not imprisoning them if they are unable to pay (unless it is willful).
Are people just now being informed of their right to an attorney? The thing is, these “reforms” Judge Diment has implemented are already guaranteed under the United States Constitution and the Georgia Constitution. Maybe he (and possibly others) should check out Boykin v. Alabama 395 US 238 (1969). I think that case might have been missed in law school along with the fact that “Boykin Rights” have been printed on every plea form in the entire United States for the past 46 years!
The bigger issue is that how long this could have gone on, had a citizen not taken a video? Unfortunately, our judiciary has now petitioned the Georgia Supreme Court to ban video from the courtroom. The outcome should be interesting.
Clearly, some judges do not want any daylight shone on their actions at all. At least our magistrate, probate, state and superior court judges are elected. With those judges, there is accountability to the electorate.
With our municipal court judges, this “new reform” will take away the only chance of accountability. Most of these courtrooms do not have court stenographers and the judge controls if and when any audio equipment is activated. The result is the practice of city court judges acting as city revenue officers will only continue. I see it all the time. The poor are abused by Georgia's court system; and we as attorneys, have a moral obligation to speak up when we see these abuses take place.