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Monday, December 17, 2012 - 12:56pm

Judge Allegedly Issued Improper Fines

Georgia's judicial review board is accusing a state court judge in Grady County of issuing improper fines and using his court's revenue to justify his request for a pay raise, among other charges.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has released—as evidence—a letter attributed to Judge J. William Bass, Sr. wherein he argues that county officials should boost his salary, in part because his work has resulted in a court that "contributes more than $350,000 per year to the county."

But the review board says at least some of that money came from so-called "administrative costs" the judge did not have authority to collect from defendants.

Judge Bass’s attorney, Christopher Townley, said his client was merely recouping court costs.

"There is authority for cost to be paid by defendants to the county, [which] is responsible for the expenses of that process," Townley said.

This is one of 11 counts against Judge Bass, who is also accused of politicking from the bench and discriminating against Hispanic defendants in his courtroom.

Attorney Gilbert Murrah said he often saw Judge Bass start the day's court proceedings the same way: "He would call the individual defendants by name and have them say what they wanted to do with their case. With the Hispanic defendants, he would just leave them sit," Murrah said.

"After [Judge Bass] did that initial run through the calendar, he would then go into the secondary courtroom and take all the Hispanic defendants in there and talk with them," Murrah added.

Townley said his client was simply pulling defendants aside to help them better understand their cases.

The commission also accuses Judge Bass of nepotism for enlisting his son to preside over the court in his absence. Townley said that can't be fairly characterized as nepotism because William Bass, Jr. did so at no cost to the county.

The commission likely will hear Judge Bass's case around the end of February.

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