Former Georgia State Judge Is in the Soup | Courthouse News Service
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Former Georgia State Judge Is in the Soup

ROME, Ga. (CN) - A Georgia state judge sexually harassed his employees so relentlessly he was forced to resign, and is being investigated by a federal grand jury, three women claim in court.

The former court employees sued Murray County and its former Magistrate Court Judge Bryant Cochran, in Federal Court.

Plaintiffs Yesenia Galvan, Virginia Rector and Sonya Petty say in the complaint that the U.S. attorney has a grand jury investigating Cochran, who has resigned.

The women claim that Murray County has a sexual harassment policy, but it's ineffective because it's managed by a sole county commissioner without checks and balances.

Rector, who worked as a clerk, claims Cochran harassed her with "sexual advances, comments and inappropriate sexual conduct," including "inappropriate and sexual" touching.

The complaint states: "Cochran's actions included but are not limited to (A) staring at Rector's breasts; (B) making comments about Rector's breasts such as 'boy they are getting bigger ...'; (C) making off-color jokes asking Rector into meetings and asking her to close the door then sexually intimidating her; (D) asking Rector to close the door, step into his bathroom, touching her breasts, touching her vaginal area, rubbing his penis up against her rear, and undertaking verbal and nonverbal actions suggesting they have sex; (E) rubbing his hands up and down Rector's legs, her rear, and then forward between her legs; (F) Petty & Galvan witnessed some of these actions and were aware of others; (G) Cochran also made inappropriate statements in front of Rector, Petty & Galvan regarding sexual encounters with other women, descriptions of having sex with a woman where 'she would come so hard that [he] did not think she would ever stop,' describing, being 'squirted in his eye' during a sexual encounter, causing an eye infection, and going around the office kicking the women's desks from time to time making comments like such as 'I would love to have a blow job.'" (Ellipsis and brackets in complaint.)

The complaint continues: "Cochran, after the allegations regarding sexual misconduct and abuse of his office became known, resigned because of an investigation into his conduct from his position as Magistrate Judge. The resignation came on the heels of an investigation into Cochran's actions by the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission. Thereafter the Federal Bureau of Investigation undertook a criminal investigation into Cochran's actions, which has resulted in the United States Attorney beginning grand jury investigations into his actions as described herein and additional actions as investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The grand jury investigation is continuing in nature.

"After his resignation Gale Buckner was appointed to Cochran's position. Buckner took the position unsupervised by the County or by the sole County Commissioner. Buckner undertook a course of conduct of intimidation and retaliation resulting in the constructive discharge of Rector, Petty & Galvan. Rector, Petty & Galvan offered their resignation after continuing pressure on them to perform duties not within their job description, after complaints about inappropriate dress in the office that were untrue, and after acts of intimidation which created a hostile work environment making it impossible for each to perform their work. Rector, Petty & Galvan allege that the County failed to appropriately supervise Buckner and, therefore, the county's failure to appropriately supervise Buckner resulted in the creation of an atmosphere resulting in their constructive discharge.

"Murray County was negligent in failing to have an appropriate sexual-harassment policy that required reporting to someone outside the political structure including but not limited to the county officials such as Cochran."

They seek damages for negligence, reckless and intentional infliction of emotional distress, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and denial of due process and employment rights.

They are represented by McCracken Poston, of Ringgold, Ga., and Stuart James, with James, Goins & Carpenter, of Chattanooga, Tenn.

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