Alex Constantine - September 19, 2014
"... Fuller was nominated to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush and has been a controversial figure in Alabama politics, largely for his role in the Siegelman trial. ... One of the lawyers in that case, Donald V. Watkins ... has written a letter to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts asking him to take action against Fuller. ..."
By Steve Visser
A Republican senator on Wednesday called for the resignation of an Alabama federal judge arrested on charges of assaulting his wife in an Atlanta hotel.
“The American people’s trust in our judicial system depends on the character and integrity of those who have the distinction and honor of sitting on the bench and I believe Judge Mark Fuller has lost the confidence of his colleagues and the people of the state of Alabama and I urge him to resign immediately,” U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, told the Montgomery Advertiser.
Shelby made his comments a day after a Republican congresswoman from the state talked about impeaching Fuller.
Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, said Tuesday she was waiting for the judiciary disciplinary process to finish but that U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller must be held to a higher standard. Domestic violence could mean impeachment, she said.
“Domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, explained away or swept under the rug,” Roby told the Montgomery Advertiser. “It must be confronted head on, and abusers must be held accountable. Our sons and daughters are paying attention, and how our society handles this moment matters a great deal.”
Fuller, 55, was arrested in August after his wife, Kelli, calledAtlanta 911 to report he was attacking her in a downtown hotel. He was arrested on misdemeanor charges.
According to a police report, the judge’s wife had lacerations to her mouth and forehead and she said her husband had thrown her to the ground, pulled her hair and kicked her after she confronted him over an alleged affair her husband was having with a law clerk. Fuller’s wife told police that he dragged her around the room “and hit her several times in the mouth with his hands.”
According to a transcript of the 911 phone call, Fuller’s wife pleaded for help.“He’s beating on me,” she told a dispatcher before requesting an ambulance. “Please help me.”
Fuller told police his wife threw a glass at him and that he was defending himself. “When asked about the lacerations to her mouth, Mr. Fuller stated that he just threw her to the ground and that was it,” the report stated.
The case, along with the NFL case of former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, has put the spotlight on domestic violence. Unlike Rice, however, whom the NFL indefinitely suspended over an incident in which he struck his then-fiance in an elevator, Fuller may get off with little in professional consequences and actually may see the charges against him disappear.
Earlier this month, Fulton County Chief Magistrate Stephanie Davis accepted a plea deal for Fuller that allowed him to enroll in a counseling and alcohol treatment program to avoid having a conviction sully his record.
She set an Oct. 14 court date for Fuller to provide proof he had received alcohol and drug treatment and enrolled in a 24-week program for those accused of domestic violence. It is then that the charge from an Aug. 9 incident at The Ritz-Carlton would be dropped. He also cannot have any “violent contact” with his wife, Davis said during the Sept. 5 court hearing.
“I look forward to completing the family counseling that I voluntarily began several weeks ago and to successfully completing the requirements of the diversion,” Fuller said after the hearing.
Roby, whose father, Joel Dubina, is a federal judge on senior status on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, is the second Alabama congresswoman to speak out on on the case. The other woman in the state delegation, Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, said via Twitter last week that Fuller should resign, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said on her Twitter account that Fuller should resign.
Fuller is a judge in the Middle District of Alabama and presided over the 2006 bribery trial of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy.
Fuller was nominated to the bench in 2002 by President George W. Bush and has been a controversial figure in Alabama politics, largely for his role in the Siegelman trial. Siegelman’s family members and supporters claim the former governor’s prosecution was politically motivated and that Fuller should have recused himself for conflicts of interest.
One of the lawyers in that case, Donald V. Watkins, told The Daily Beast that he has written a letter to U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts asking him to take action against Fuller.
Meanwhile the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is investigating the incident but it has little way of punishment it can mete out other than removing cases or asking Fuller to resign. Federal judges have tenure for life unless Congress impeaches them and removes them from office. Currently the appellate court has reassigned Fuller’s cases to other federal judges in the Montgomery-based court.
The court’s judicial council, however, can determine whether a judge has engaged in conduct constituting grounds for impeachment and send this certification to the Judicial Conference of the United States, a national committee of top judges charged with administration of the courts. This conference can recommend impeachment to the U.S. House of Representatives.