Judge Crawford fights his removal by attacking legitimacy of JQC

Judge Mack Crawford.
Judge Mack Crawford.

Former Gov. Roy Barnes representing Griffin Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Robert “Mack” Crawford, who could be removed from office following charges against him, has maintained before the Georgia Court of Appeals that members of the state Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) recommending the removal are illegally holding office.

The Georgia Supreme Court in July decided to let the state Court of Appeals act first in determining if the recommendation by JQC to permanently remove Crawford was legal.

As reported by R. Robin McDonald for law.com, Barnes has challenged JQC’s legitimacy, stating that its 2018 appointments are not valid because they were not submitted for Senate confirmation until after the legal deadline.

“A law says what it means and means what it says,” said Barnes, as reported by McDonald. “So if the statute means what it says and says what it means, then those who are serving could not lawfully serve on the Judicial Qualifications Commission.”

In response, JQC Director Chuck Boring maintained that the names of commission members conformed to legal requirements, McDonald reported.

“If you look at the record, the actual memo in the Senate Journal, it doesn’t say the names were submitted that day,” Boring said, as quoted by McDonald. “It says, ‘They have been submitted.’ If it says what it means and means what it says, they have been submitted.”

Crawford last year was arraigned in Pike County Superior Court, entering a plea of not guilty to charges of felony theft by taking and felony violation of oath by a public officer.

Suspended after being indicted on charges of stealing $15,675 from the court registry, Crawford on March 22 told a JQC panel that he made “a big mistake” when he directed a court clerk to pay him the money, according to a previous article in the Fulton Daily Report.

A suspension notice signed by JQC Presiding Officer Robert C. I. McBurney noted that a Pike County grand jury on Oct. 31, 2018 returned a true bill of indictment charging Crawford with two felonies – theft by taking and violation of oath by a public officer, and relating to a July ruling from JQC where Crawford was charged with “egregious” judicial misconduct relating to the theft of more than $15,000 from the registry of the Pike County Superior Court.

JQC referenced Crawford’s order to the Pike County Clerk of Court to disburse $15,675.62 in funds from the court registry to him by check. Crawford then cashed and used a portion of the check for his personal benefit and deposited the remainder of the money in his personal checking account. The funds either belonged to his clients or were unclaimed property that should have gone to the Ga. Department of Revenue, JQC said in the July 24, 2018 ruling.