ATLANTA (CN) — A county magistrate judge will be suspended for 30 days without pay for shoving a shackled inmate against a wall after a hearing, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.
Crawford County Chief Magistrate Judge Cary Hays III will also receive a public reprimand in open court for his violations of the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct as part of the deal proposed by the state’s judicial watchdog, the Judicial Qualifications Commission.
“The proposed sanction is one of the most significant we have ever imposed, short of removal from office,” the ruling, which is unsigned, says. “It is a grave violation for a judge to use violence against any person appearing before him, except in self-defense or defense of others, which was not the situation here.”
A security camera captured the December 2020 altercation between Hays and Brian Keith Davis, who was attending a first appearance hearing in a conference room at the county jail.
According to court documents, Davis became upset with Hays' bond determination and began cursing at the judge. He continued to curse even as he was led out of the conference room by a law enforcement officer and walked into the hallway outside.
The commission noted in a filing that Davis never physically threatened Hays or anyone else and made no attempt to flee from custody.
Hays followed Davis into the hallway, grabbed him and shoved him against a wall. Davis was handcuffed and shackled at the time.
Neither man was injured during the incident.
Hays has admitted that the allegations surrounding the December 2020 incident are true. No criminal charges were filed against the judge in connection with the altercation.
The commission found that the judge violated the Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct by failing to act “in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” by failing to respect and comply with the law and by failing to “act in a patient, dignified and courteous manner toward a litigant.”
Although the Georgia Supreme Court condemned Hays’ actions, the ruling says they did not merit removing him from office.
“The incident — grave as it was — was momentary, and no actual injury was inflicted,” the ruling says, adding that Hays is “a well-respected member of the community.”
The court also noted Hays’ military service and his lack of any prior disciplinary history.
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