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JQC: Remove Crawford from office

The Georgia Supreme Court will decide the fate of judge Robert ‘˜Mack’ Crawford after the Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel recently recommended that he be removed from office for the alleged theft of court funds. Crawford, a Pike resident and former state legislator, was indicted in October on two felony counts of theft and violating his oath of office and he has pleaded not guilty to those charges. He was suspended from office in December. As a private attorney in 2002, Crawford represented two clients who placed $15,675 in the Pike County court’s registry while their foreclosure case was pending. In 2009, a judge dismissed the case and ordered the funds be returned to Crawford’s clients. The funds stayed in the registry until December 2017 when a clerk told Crawford she planned to send the money to the state as unclaimed property. Crawford directed her to give him the funds, which he used to pay off debts he owed, according to court records. In its decision, the JQC hearing panel said ‘very little’ about Crawford’s conduct in the matter demonstrated a lack of commitment to respect and comply with the law. ’The record makes plain that the money he took was not demonstrably his own and that he took what he did in a manner that did not comply with a judge’s order,’ the decision said. In the hearing with the JQC panel, Crawford apologized and said he made a mistake but he was owed the money for attorney’s fees that were never collected from the clients. He said that in retrospect, he should have filed a petition or sought the appointment of an administrator to adjudicate the matter through the county probate court as assets of the estate. The JQC hearing panel which recommended Crawford be removed from office includes Chief Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, Atlanta lawyer Jamala McFadden and Cobb County Police Chief Michael Register. The JQC’s opinion said Crawford’s actions ‘reflect conscious, consistent decisions to act in a matter inconsistent with the norms of our judiciary. Deliberate choices were made then that now have consequences.’

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