Crawford County Judge faces unpaid suspension and public reprimand for verbal and physical altercation with defendant in 2020

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KNOXVILLE, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) — Crawford County Judge Cary Hays III is facing an unpaid, 30 day suspension followed by a public reprimand due to allegations that he engaged in a verbal and physical altercation with a defendant.

According to court documents from the Supreme Court of Georgia, there are formal charges that say Judge Hays was in a verbal and physical altercation with the defendant when the defendant had appeared before Judge Hays for a first appearance hearing held in the jail complex in December of 2020. It was here that the defendant began cursing at the Judge in response to his bond determination, to which Judge Hays verbally engaged with the defendant while he was being led out of the hearing. Hays followed him into a hallway, where Hays exchanged a few more words with the defendant before grabbing him and pushing him against the wall. The defendant was handcuffed and his feet were shackled as he was accompanied by a law enforcement officer. At no point did the defendant physically threaten Judge Hays or anyone else or attempt to flee, the defendant wasn’t physically injured in this incident.

The Judicial Qualifications Commissions (JQC) investigated the incident and found that Judge Has be charged with 3 violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct:

  • Rule 1.1: Requires judges to “respect and comply with the law”
  • Rule 1.2(A): That judges “act all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary”
  • Rule 2.8(B): Requires judges be “patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants”

The Director of the JQC and Court have agreed that Judge Cary Hays III, Chief Magistrate of Crawford County, serve an unpaid 30 day suspension with public reprimand in order to resolve the formal charges brought against him from this incident. When searching for an analogous disciplinary case in order to decide how to sanction this case, the JQC couldn’t find any  in Georgia, so instead referenced a more egregious disciplinary case in Mississippi where a judge was fined and suspended for 90 days without pay for repeatedly hitting a defendant in a crowded courtroom and directing profanity at him– which was particularly serious in this case as the defendant had just been found guilty of public profanity.

The Court papers detail in reference to the suspension and the reprimand, that “the proposed sanction is one of the most significant we have ever imposed, short of removal from office.”, and that the rules that Judge Hays broke are very serious as it is a “grave violation” for a judge to use violence against any person before him, except in self defense or in defense of others, as it undermines the rule of law and removes the judge from the role of neutral arbiter. However, it is also noted that Judge Hays is a well-respected member of the community who has served his country as a member of the military, as well as the fact that he lacks a prior disciplinary history and that he has accepted full responsibility for this incident.

Categories: Crawford County, Featured, Local News

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