Atlanta

Atlanta judge investigated for staff running personal errands reprimanded for behavior in court

ATLANTA — An Atlanta municipal court judge quoted the Old Testament book of Proverbs when she was publicly reprimanded Tuesday for ethical misconduct.

Judge JaDawnya Baker was the subject of a Channel 2 Action News investigation after a whistleblower at the court told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that Baker was using court staff to run errands unrelated to court business.

Baker acknowledged those errands during an investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but the Georgia Supreme Court — which has final authorization for disciplinary actions against Georgia judges — focused the reprimand on her behavior in court, not the personal errands.

Fulton County Chief Superior Court Judge Christopher Brasher read the reprimand directed by the high court, concluding: “For your conduct, you are hereby publicly reprimanded.”

It is only the fourth time that an ethics investigation has ended in a public reprimand.

Baker, who was appointed to the court by then-Mayor Kasim Reed in 2015, asked Brasher if she could speak and began with the Old Testament.

“Proverbs 19:20 says to listen to counsel, receive instruction and to accept correction, so that your days ahead will be more wise,” Baker said in the nearly empty courtroom.

Initial JQC charges against Judge Baker included some of what Channel 2 Action News had first investigated: that Baker directed court staff to bring personal items, including her robe, to her home for an event unrelated to the court.

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She also acknowledged using a court security officer to pick up alcoholic beverages for a private event.

But the Supreme Court concluded it was not clear the personal errands occurred during work hours and not clear that court staff did not voluntarily run the errands. Instead, the court authorized the reprimand because Baker improperly dismissed some cases that came before her in municipal court.

“I first just want to start by apologizing to my constituents for the mistake that I made. Although this is unquestionably an unfortunate day, I really choose to focus on all the lessons that I’ve learned in this time,” the judge said, with attorney Richard Robbins by her side.

“How can she ask the people before her to acknowledge their mistakes and to accept the consequences, if she doesn’t do so?” Robbins added.

Chuck Boring, the director of the JQC told Channel 2 Action News after the brief hearing that Baker’s reprimand sends a message all judges will understand: “If a judge is negligent in following the law over a period of time, then they’re going to have to be held accountable.”

Baker was never suspended, so her time on the municipal court has been uninterrupted.

In fact, she was re-elected in last fall’s city election, and she is the president-elect of the state’s Council of Municipal Court Judges.

She is also a member of the State Bar’s Board of Governors.

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