NAACP Asks State to Remove Twiggs' Judge Fowler

1:53 PM, Jan 29, 2010   |    comments
  • Kenneth Fowler at state hearing Friday. Photo by Zachary D. Porter/Daily Report.
  • Twiggs County Courthouse
    
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    As a Twiggs County probate judge fights to keep his job, the local NAACP chapter says he should be removed.

    On Friday, the organization's Macon branch says one of their members sat in on Kenneth E. Fowler's court after getting many complaints.

    Fowler is accused of bias, misconduct and "rude, abusive and insulting" comments, including calling African American defendants "colored."

    The NAACP says the court should remove him.

     The Commission on Judicial Qualifications hearing on the Fowler case continued Friday.

    The commission issued a 15-count Notice of Formal Proceedings against Kenneth Fowler in June, after investigating complaints against him.

After a hearing, the seven-member commission can recommend to the state Supreme Court whether Fowler should retire, be censured, suspended or removed.

The 15 counts against Fowler allege that he took sides in the cases before him, incorrectly quoted the law during hearings and held conversations outside court with people involved in his cases, according to state court documents.

He's accused of screaming that a defendant should "shut up," suggesting that a female defendant must have provided sexual favors for a state trooper, calling black defendants "colored" and telling yet another defendant, "God damn, you asking for trouble."

 

Fowler is also accused of allowing defendants, without any legal authority, to "buy out" the community-service portion of their sentence by paying a fee. He would not share those funds with county officials and filed false documents when questioned about the money, the state panel says.

Reached by phone Sunday, Fowler declined comment, except to say, "I've always done what I thought was right."

His lawyer, Jon Helton of Dublin, did not return phone calls from 13WMAZ.

Some of the other allegations against him:

 

  • He convicted some suspects without any testimony from law-enforcement officers -- finding some defendants guilty based on an officer's notes written on the traffic ticket.
  • He expressed bias on cases by making comments like, "That radar ain't gonna be wrong. I've rode in them (patrol) cars."
  • He fined defendants for "costs" higher than the amounts allowed by law and jailed people for contempt of court for periods longer than allowed by law.
  • He "failed to show proper decorum while presiding in Probate Court by improperly answering telephone calls while sitting on the bench, thus interrupting court sessions."
  • He met with witnesses outside court -- for example, telling one suspect, "This game warden done told me all about your case."
  • He heard cases -- for example drug and child-cruelty charges -- that are outside his authority as probate judge.
  • He called a tenant on behalf of a Twiggs County property owner, identified himself as a judge and ordered them to move out of their rental property.
  • He allowed a defendant's friend to try to interpret in court, even though the man admitted he could not speak Spanish.
 

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