Clarke County Superior Court Judge Eric Norris had a Tuesday hearing before the state Judicial Qualifications Board, in which he expressed regret for a 2019 incident in which he detained Athens bail bondsman Nathan Owens. Judge Norris and Owens were in a dispute over social media posts made by Owens after the judge set bond for a rape suspect.
From WSB TV...
A Clarke County judge is facing ethics charges over the way he handled a meeting with a man who criticized him on social media.
Judge Eric Norris says he asked to meet with a bail bondsman who publicly trashed the judge’s decision to grant bond to an accused rapist.
The bondsman claims that during that July 2019 meeting, the judge berated him, wouldn’t let him call his attorney and kept him in the judge’s chambers when he wanted to leave.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Norris described the courthouse meeting with remorse.
“I realized I embarrassed myself,” he said. “Not myself, the position I hold.”
“My intentions were, were good for having the meeting,” he continued. “In the end, it went not good.”
Three members of the Judicial Qualification’s Commission hearing panel were present to Norris’ alleged conduct.
Norris told the panel it was not just the criticism that bothered, but that he felt a social media post took the issue too far.
“Rapist on the loose,” he recalled the post as saying. “That concerned me because the person had not been convicted.”
Norris said he felt as though the bail bondsman had a higher responsibility to be truthful because of his position.
One allegation Norris continues to deny is that he did not allow the bondsman to leave the office, which included the judge’s armed guard.
“Did [the bondsman] ask to leave?,” Norris was asked while on the stand.
“He never said that,” Norris responded.
When his attorney asked Norris if he knew the meeting was a mistake and should have been canceled as soon as it started, he replied, “Absolutely.”
“I just made a mistake. It was a bad mistake. I lost my cool,” he explained.
The Judicial Qualification’s Commission panel will decide whether or not Norris has violated judicial ethics laws. If so, they will also determine disciplinary action, which could include removal from office. The Supreme Court will also have to approve the punishment.
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