What should US District Judge Mark Fuller do if he beat his wife?

Photo credit: Anonymous, AP. Apparently this is a mug shot of Judge Fuller.

Photo credit: Anonymous, AP. Apparently this is a mug shot of Judge Fuller.

United States District Judge Mark E. Fuller was arrested for misdemeanor spousal abuse. According to his wife, the abuse was violent. See here. The Eleventh Circuit stripped the judge of his caseload pending completion of an investigation. The judge will be paid despite the fact that he won’t be handling a caseload.  It is unlikely that the judge will be impeached even if he beat his wife. See here and here for additional newspaper coverage.

What, if anything, should the judge do if he is guilty of assaulting his wife? 

RGK

27 responses

  1. First, I like the idea of a sentence that includes some time in the Fulton County Jail with the general population. It sounds like the federal judiciary discipline structure has no teeth. Hmmmm. I assume a Bar complaint has been made to the state Bar in Alabama (hopefully?) The Bar could suspend his license. Is a law license required to be an Article III judge? If this fails to de-robe him, perhaps the circuit could assign him to a caseload consisting only of habeas and prisoner litigation, kick him out of his office in the federal building there, and require him to hold face to face hearings in person with all such pro se litigants in a small cramped room located at whatever the largest prison is there. He should not be allowed to have any law clerks for the remainder of his active status, he should have to research and write all future opinions on his own. And required monthly appearances discussing domestic violence topics, supervised by a women’s Bar committee in Alabama. If none of this is possible, I might be satisfied with a billboard near his home, a sign in his yard or a required bumper sticker, stating he is a wife-beater.

  2. I wanted my wife’s opinion as well, so I asked her. Seems that we both agreed that the Judge has no business being a Judge anymore. He should resign.
    He should immediately have Domestic Violence counseling for at least 2 years.

  3. Ist Clerk,

    Unlike Magistrate Judges, an Article III judge is not required to hold a law license. I resigned my membership in the mandatory Nebraska Bar Association (and thus my Nebraska law license) some years ago for, among other reasons, I would then be able to handle suits against the NSBA. I have such a case now.

    All the best.

    RGK

  4. I think he should be handled like any other inmate in the system would be handled, and then released like any other inmate in the system. I do not believe that further action should be taken.

    I suspect that the personal damage done would be quite enough, to him and to the public’s perception of the justice system. I worry about trying to “replace” the judicial impeachment system with punishments of our own because we as a people hate what he has done. He shouldn’t be “made” an example of. If people disapprove of how he is treated by the system, they should change the system.

  5. He obviously believes at some level that he’s above the law. This attitude, expressed through his behavior, is at odds with his profession and the requirements of his current position. So he should not be allowed to continue working as a judge. Letting him continue to work as a federal judge after these sorts of problems will send a powerful signal that domestic violence is ultimately ‘not that big a deal’.

  6. “What, if anything, should the judge do if he is guilty of assaulting his wife?”

    Why would you ask such a question? It’s pretty obvious. Quit.

  7. So no teeth in the article III discipline, and state Bar discipline will not be able to keep him from the bench. (My “torture” suggestions assumed he would not voluntarily resign.) Why would he resign from a salary for life? Assuming he will not, I still like the torture.

  8. It appears he has a history of domestic violence, although such claims in a divorce shouldn’t be given too much weight. We had a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas go to prison for sexual harassment (including groping) of his staff. He resigned just before the House was to take up impeachment.
    I think he should remain suspended pending the outcome of this case. If he’s convicted or pleads, he should resign. If the charges are dropped, the 11th Circuit should conduct an investigation. Remember, domestic violence convictions come with federal ramications like a prohibition on receiving firearms.
    There’s no excuse for assaulting a spouse. And, he should know better than to have an affair with a law clerk. That sucks. I have a friend who is a federal judge who usually has two beautiful female law clerks. And, he’d never think about touching one of them. He just likes beautiful, smart women around him.
    This guy ought to be thinking about resigning or retiring. He sure needs some substance abuse treatment.

  9. I am not a federal judge, but I do work in a position of trust at a children’s hospital. If I were arrested in similar circumstances, I would not bother to come in to work on Monday. If I did, it would only be to meet my boss who would tell me to collect my things and show me the door. Whether this is right or wrong, it is the truth and I have known that it was the truth since the day I applied.

    Our constitution has given judges a huge shield that they rightfully need to perform their constitutional role of protecting the unpopular and powerless from the awesome might of the state. The framers intentionally left one hole in that shield — and that hole is impeachment. My only horror in this situation is the, apparently real, possibility that impeachment may be too difficult so we will just give him nothing to do until he gets tired and quits.

    Lets not rush too fast to judgement, the question you asked was “if” he beat his wife. If he did then he needs to go, voluntarily or otherwise. I would hope that factors of expense or political inconvenience would not distract us from right and wrong — people who assault others cannot be permitted to sit on the bench.

  10. I know! Let’s use the Sentence-O-Matic!

    CRUNCHING NUMBERS NOW: Subject is a white male with no priors and he associates with rich lawyers and important members of our justice system… apparently he’s entitled to a blow-job and partnership in the Men’s Rights Law Firm of his choice!

    Are you sure this thing is programmed right?

  11. Assuming this guy did the deed:

    We place judges (and cops…) in positions of high power and high trust. Accordingly we need to hold them to much higher standards than the “ordinary” citizen criminal; he should, contra SLS, not at all be handled like any other inmate in the system. The “personal damage” he’d suffer from ordinary handling won’t come near the damage done his wife.

    Accordingly, this person (I hesitate to call him a man) should resign, and he would had he any honor. If he had any honor, though, he wouldn’t have done the deed in the first place. It’s unfortunate that he’s unlikely to be impeached, but that’s today’s set of legislatures, so he’s likely to stay in office.

    Since it seems he’ll hold office until he doesn’t, he should be encouraged to resign. In the USAF, when an officer engages in sufficiently egregious behavior, he gets reassigned away from his original duties to be a special assistant to a nearby general officer pending more permanent disposition. The general officer knows why this person has been assigned to him. Quite apart from that, being a special assistant to a general who already has an Aide and an Executive Officer working for him is…unpleasant.

    Perhaps this guy can be reassigned to be a special assistant to the District’s Chief Judge. Or, failing that, perhaps the 11th Circuit could find use for an SLJ Judge.

    Separately, I’m not sure I understand the charge. How is it possible for spousal abuse–violent or not–to be a misdemeanor? Did he abuse her or not? I ask as one who has, informally, helped three victims of spousal abuse. Two recovered from their physical injuries in pretty short order. The third was emotionally abused, and all three women still suffer from that, in one case a dozen years after her freedom.

    Eric Hines

  12. The phrase “High crimes and misdemeanors” has always bothered me. But a domestic violence is a misdemeanor, so he can be impeached.
    The impeachment of the King’s Chancellor, Michael de la Pole, 1st Earl of Suffolk in 1386 was the first case to use this charge. One charge under this heading alleged that de la Pole broke a promise to Parliament. He had promised to follow the advice of a committee regarding improvement of the kingdom. Another charge said that he failed to pay a ransom for the town of Ghent, and that because of that the town fell to the French. No word on how he treated his spouse.

  13. The same thing they did to Judge Kent (SDTX) when they realized he was sexually harassing his employees. Impeach him. Federal judges should be held to the very highest standards of conduct. I have practiced in front of many fine federal judges all over the state of Texas and the Fifth Circuit. I especially loved Judge Sam Sparks, Judge Lee Yeakel, and Magistrate Andrew Austin, all still in the WDTX, Austin. All straight shooters who did the right and fair thing, I thought, most of the time. There was another magistrate there I loved, but he is now the US Attorney for the Western District of Texas, Robert Pitman. With exceptional people like those four to serve in the federal judiciary, there no excuse for perverts, wife batterers, or even garden variety moral weaklings and unexceptional legal thinkers. Judge Kent stayed on the federal payroll for as long as he could, trying to hang on to his $169,300 for life pension, forcing his impeachment — while serving 33 months in federal prison for lying to the Feds. Judge Kent was mean to everybody, too; an equal opportunity abuser who loved to call lawyers idiots.

  14. I am bemused by the double-standard here. When a judge (I assume Judge Fuller’s innocence here) commits a misdemeanor assault against his wife, he is unfit to remain on a bench, but if he runs roughshod over the rights of litigants in his courtroom (Judge Gertner was “trained” to do it), “boys will be boys.”

  15. I don’t think they need such an impenetrable shield. If you know you are going to be held accountable for your actions, you will think before you act. We need to put ‘the fear of God’ in our judiciary, as our judges have the potential to do more harm to individuals on a daily basis than any other public servant. When a Judge McCree can act without consequences, injustice will happen.

    Even if the allegations are true, is this a “high crime [or] misdemeanor”? Not likely. I don’t see how Congress can do anything and as many have said here, the courts’ (self-)”discipline” system is comically feckless. This is the price you pay for giving the judiciary too much independence. You’re stuck with the guy, even if he is guilty.

    If he is guilty (of even having an affair with his law clerk), this will reflect badly on even our hopelessly broken system.

  16. Ruling on cases is his job description. We have appellate courts to solve that type of issue. Beating your wife definitely is not in his job description.

  17. I’d start with the presumption of innocence. Suspend him until the matter is resolved.

    If it is resolved in his favor, I agree with those who suggest reinstatement followed by an investigation at the Circuit level and whatever discipline would appropriately follow.

    If it is resolved with a plea or finding of guilt, and he hasn’t the decency to resign, then I think that the outcome is to exercise the “high crimes and misdemeanors” provision and move toward impeachment.

    If the outcome is the latter, my thought, as a non-judge non-lawyer, is founded in the notion that confidence in the justice system is paramount and to have a judge on the bench who has been convicted of a crime, particularly one such as this, is not appropriate.

    Hopefully the right thing happens in this case, whatever the right thing may be.

  18. “Separately, I’m not sure I understand the charge. How is it possible for spousal abuse–violent or not–to be a misdemeanor?”

    That was my first thought upon learning, as a law student, that domestic violence is a misdemeanor in my jurisdiction. IIRC, it’s a more serious misdemeanor on the second offense, and a felony on the third. Again, that’s in my jurisdiction. Not sure about Alabama.

  19. And if your judge sleeps with your opponent (the McCree case, which will not be spoken of here) and orders you thrown into jail because she asks, the time you spent in the slammer and additional time and expense incurred is absque damnum injuria? Seriously?

    Obviously, beating your spouse is never a good thing. But how does it qualify as a “high crime or a misdemeanor”? How is it an offense against the public trust? What a judge does on his or her own time is really none of the public’s business, as long as that judge shows up to work the next Monday and does his day job competently. If he is busted for DWI or smacks his wife in a fight, he should be treated like any other citizen.

    We don’t ask our judges to be saints. We ask them to dispense justice without respect to persons. If there is a distinction to be drawn, it seems to me that it ought to go the other way.

  20. Pingback: Judicial misconduct complaints « Hercules and the umpire.

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