Monday, November 5, 2018
The Georgia Supreme Court has reprimanded a judge
According to the formal charges, the allegations of which Judge Stokes admits are true, she violated the Code of Judicial Conduct by her habitual tardiness in starting court and her excessive absenteeism from the court...
During the past year-and-a-half, Judge Stokes often did not take the bench until more than an hour after the court’s scheduled starting time. Furthermore, she often did not even arrive at the courthouse until after the court’s scheduled starting time. We note that Judge Stokes has offered no good cause to excuse this habitual tardiness. Accordingly, Judge Stokes failed to promote public confidence in the judiciary and to give her judicial duties precedence over all other activities...
She was absent for 38 of her scheduled court days in 2017 and, as of the time of the filing of the formal charges on September 17, 2018, had already missed 36 of her scheduled court days in 2018. Furthermore, her absenteeism required the court to spend significant funds on judges pro tempore to fill in. The court spent more than twice as much money on judges pro tempore to fill in for Judge Stokes as the other two Recorder’s Court judges combined. This absenteeism has also manifested itself in Judge Stokes’s unavailability to review and determine probable cause for search and arrest warrants outside of court hours, one of her duties as a Recorder’s Court judge.
the Investigative Panel considered in mitigation Judge Stokes’s cooperation in responding to the allegations of misconduct, including voluntarily meeting with the panel; her candor during the meeting, including admitting her tardiness and absences, being reflective and remorseful, and expressing an honest desire to improve and set a better example as the Chief Judge of the Recorder’s Court of Chatham County; her faithful service on that court for many years; the fact that her absences and tardiness were due in part to then-pending litigation in which she was a party, which diverted her time and resources away from the court; her receptiveness to new court procedures that could help assure the public that the judge is present and court has begun on time; and the fact that her tardiness and absences were not intentional or malicious abuses of judicial power but rather were a correctable and recent lapse in judgment.