Another judge steps aside in controversial Fayette divorce case


Yet another judge has recused himself from a long-running Fayette County divorce case. Senior Superior Court Judge Grant Brantley filed a voluntary recusal order in the case Oct. 14.

The action followed a motion seeking his recusal filed by attorneys for Janet Bell Crook, whose husband Gregory Crook filed for divorce in April 2008.

In that motion, attorneys for Mrs. Crook argued that Brantley gave preferential treatment by not enforcing a valid subpoena on former Superior Court Judge Paschal A. English Jr., yet forcing another defense witness to appear under subpoena at a subsequent hearing who was in a similar situation to English at the time he was informally excused by the court: about to leave the state on a family trip.

Mrs. Crook’s attorneys also argued that Brantley had raised election funds via a letter written on behalf of former Fayette County Superior Court Judge Paschal A. English Jr., who recused himself from the case before he resigned in April of this year.

Judge Brantley, in a letter to the district court administrator, defended his different treatment of former jurist English and the defense witness, a child psychologist, because they emanated from different circumstances altogether.

Brantley also wrote that the fund-raising letter for former Judge English was actually authored by his son, Grant Brantley Jr., who was a real estate agent at the time, a fact that was included on that letter so as to further distinguish between himself and his son.

Brantley also denied that he violated any judicial canons by supporting a political campaign. He said that a recent campaign report attributing less than $100 in in-kind donations from him towards Judge English’s campaign was a clerical error on the part of Judge English’s campaign, as that contribution occurred several years ago before Brantley became a judge while he was still in private practice with an Atlanta law firm.

As the Crook v. Crook divorce case file has grown to be one of the largest in county history, it has struggled onward at an excruciatingly slow pace. The case has been put on a jury trial calendar five times, only to be pulled each time for one reason or another.

Meanwhile, the Crooks are sharing custody of their two children in a temporary arrangement while the children’s guardian ad litem has strongly urged a quick resolution of the case.

The case gained notoriety early this summer as it directly led to the sudden resignation of two of Fayette County’s four Superior Court judges. Judges Johnnie L. Caldwell Jr. and English resigned in April after a Peachtree City divorce attorney, Susan Brown, came forward privately with allegations that Mrs. Crook had been unfairly treated in the case because of Caldwell’s improper overtures towards Brown.

The allegations later became public, weeks after Caldwell and English resigned from the bench. English, it was later revealed, also had been caught in the middle of a sexual tryst with another attorney, a local public defender, which had been discovered by a sheriff’s deputy who happened upon the couple inside a vehicle parked in a subdivision on the outskirts of Fayetteville in 2008.

It is not immediately known if the case will be assigned to another judge outside of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, or whether it might be assigned to one of Fayette’s two newest Superior Court jurists: Mack Crawford or Fletcher Sams, both of whom were selected by Gov. Sonny Perdue to replace English and Caldwell.

Because of the allegations filed against Caldwell in connection with the case, Fayette County’s two other Superior Court Judges, Christopher C. Edwards and Tommy R. Hankinson, have recused themselves from the case.