JQC Files Formal Charges Against Superior Court Judge Robert Reeves
The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (JQC) filed formal charges against Middle Judicial Circuit Supreme Court Judge Robert Reeves on November 16, listing 58 counts of alleged misconduct based on complaints by attorneys and others that the Judge made derogatory remarks in the courtroom, engaged in sexual harassment, and made inappropriate use of his title.
The JQC’s Investigative Panel concluded that “Formal Charges should be filed for the purpose of determining whether Judge Reeves has violated the Code of Judicial Conduct, and if so, whether he has committed willful misconduct in office, exhibited habitual intemperance, and whether his conduct is prejudicial to the administration of justice such that it brings the judicial office into disrepute.”
Charles Boring, Director of the JQC, who filed the notice of formal charges, requested that proceedings be instituted for the purpose of determining whether Judge Reeve’s conduct constitutes violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, and if so, the appropriate discipline.
Judge Reeves was formally notified of the alleged misconduct and required to file a verified answer to these charges with the Clerk of the Georgia Supreme Court and to serve a copy to Director Boring within 30 days of notification of the charges. “Failure to answer the formal continued from page
charges shall constitute an admission of the factual allegations pursuant to JQC Rule 21 (A), according to the JQC document regarding the inquiry.
Reeves, who has been on the bench since 2007, serves as the Chief Judge in the Middle Judicial Circuit Supreme Court, which covers Toombs, Candler, Emanuel, Washington, and Jefferson Counties.
In the 60-page JQC document, several narratives of Reeves’ alleged misuse of authority are reported in a variety of situations, each divided by the nature of the offense. Improper and Intemperate Comments The JQC presented Reeves with 17 formal charges related to improper and intemperate comments that the Judge is accused of making while on the bench. In its charges, the Commission argues that Reeves “failed to act in a manner that promotes the public’s confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” but that the Judge “failed to establish, maintain, and enforce high standards of conduct, and to personally observe such standards of conduct in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct.”
One instance which the JQC listed as evidence of these charges occurred when Reeves reportedly made an inappropriate remark to a Toombs County court attendee while giving instructions to the court attendees prior to excusing them for lunch. According to the JQC, Reeves had told the court attendees to remain seated while he finished his instructions. When an African-American male rose and began to leave the courtroom, Reeves is reported as saying, “Sir, you’re walking and I’m telling you to be still. Are you really that retarded?”
The JQC also lists an instance from March 18, 2022, as evidence for the charges, saying that Reeves made another inappropriate comment while presiding over a criminal calendar in Toombs County. During this instance, it is reported that a jailer asked the Judge when the court would be breaking for lunch, to which Reeves replied : “get the people (inmates) fed? You mean we have to feed these people (inmates)?” The report states that several supporters of the inmates were in the courtroom during this instance, and several became visibly upset after the comment.
In June of this year, Reeves allegedly publicly chastised a female attorney for the Middle Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office so intensely that she left the courtroom in tears. At the time of the event, it is reported that the attorney’s office was experiencing extreme staffing shortages, which was causing the attorney to have difficulty with the amount of paperwork required in preparation for the case. After the attorney left, Reeves is reported to have made a comment along the lines of “if you can’t handle the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” Gender-Based Improper Comments According to the JQC, from at least 2016 through 2022, Judge Reeves allegedly engaged in a pattern of improper behavior that, at a minimum, gave the appearance of constituting sexual harassment and/or bias based upon the gender of various females involved in the Middle Judicial Circuit court system. Several instances of this improper behavior were also cited as evidence for the 20 formal charges regarding these comments.
In one instance, a female employee of the Middle Judicial Circuit’s Public Defender’s Office was walking down a one-way street near the office when Reeves reportedly whistled at her and drove his car the wrong way on the road to approach her. The JQC document stated that once reaching the woman, Reeves made a statement to the effect of, “What’s a pretty girl like you doing walking alone?” The employee, who is reported to be nicknamed “Miss America” by the Judge, warned Reeves that police often ticketed motorists for driving in the wrong direction on that one-way street.
Several instances of misconduct between Reeves and the female employee were listed in the indictment, including reported touching of shoulders, rubbing of the back, and attempted hugging that the female employee stated made her uncomfortable. According to the charges, it is suspected that these instances occurred so often that the employee no longer approaches Reeves alone, and has a coworker join her when conducting business.
Reeves was also reported to have told another female attorney that she needed to choose between being a full-time mother and a full-time attorney because she was unable to accomplish both tasks, as well as making comments about her husband’s back injury he received while on vacation, saying “if you didn’t do the stuff you see on TV…you know one foot on the nightstand and one foot way over here, he wouldn’t hurt his back.”
The charges also listed instances of reported comments made by Reeves about a female Assistant District Attorney’s weight and appearance. After learning of the woman’s participation in a local race, Reeves reportedly said to her: “I knew you would have to be doing something to keep in shape, or you would have started gaining weight.”
The JQC document stated that during these instances, Judge Reeves did, in the performance of his judicial duties, by words and conduct manifest bias and prejudice and engage in harassment, based upon gender. The JQC document also charged that he failed to be dignified and courteous toward a person continued from page
with whom he deals in his official capacity and failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary. Other Alleged Improper Contact with Court Personnel The JQC presented 10 formal charges against Reeves for other instances of alleged improper contact with court personnel, which stemmed from incidents in which Reeves reportedly asked other court officials to alter their decisions for the benefit of Reeves’s acquaintances.
A few instances discussed reports of Reeves asking judges and solicitors to avoid taking action against defendants for the benefit of these defendants, with whom Reeves was acquainted.
In one alleged incident, Reeves reportedly told an Assistant District Attorney that she should press charges against a law enforcement official for his actions regarding a serious motor vehicle accident. The incident involved a defendant in Emanuel County who left the scene of an accident and later contacted a law enforcement officer with whom he was acquainted to assist as he turned himself into authorities. Reeves allegedly told the Assistant District Attorney that the officer waited too long to relay that information and that she should also charge the law enforcement officer with a crime.
Fundraising and Promotion of Advocacy Center A total of 11 formal charges were brought against Reeves for his participation in a 2015 promotional video for an area non-profit organization, an advocacy facility serving communities in the Middle Judicial Circuit. The employees of the organization regularly testify in the Superior Court of the Middle Judicial Circuit in cases involving child victims, including but not limited to, child sexual and physical abuse cases.
In the video, which the JQC reported was still available for viewing on the Center’s website in June 2022, Reeves appears onscreen with a banner that states, “Judge Bobby Reeves, Superior Court Judge,” as he discusses the benefits of the organizatoion’s work in judicial cases.
It is also reported that Reeves hosted a two-hour fundraiser for the area non-profit organization in December 2020, footage of which was still available online in June 2022. During this fundraiser, Reeves is said to have encouraged viewers to donate to the cause, and even called out lawyers, teachers, and other members of the community to donate. He reportedly challenged lawyers and attorneys to match every $500 donated by the public, and thoroughly discussed the role of the organization in his court.
By participating in these actions, the JQC alleges that Reeves “failed to establish, maintain, and enforce high standards of conduct, and to personally observe such standards of conduct so that the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary is maintained.” Also, the JQC alleges that Reeves lent the prestige of his office to advance the private interests of others and conveyed and enabled others to advance the impression that an organization was in a position to influence him.
The JQC alleges that Reeves engaged in extrajudicial activities that cast doubt on his capacity to impartially decide issues and engaged in activities promoting an organization concerning the law, the legal system, and the administration of justice for which he personally solicited funds during public fundraising activities.
Reeves will continue to serve on the bench unless disciplinary action is taken by the JQC or the Supreme Court. Once the Commission receives his response to the formal charges, a hearing will be held to determine whether the case will go to trial or be dropped. If the case goes to trial, any decision may be appealed in lower courts until it is overseen by the state Supreme Court, who will make the final decision. Because of this, the case may take up to two years to be concluded. Possible outcomes if the Judge is found guilty of these claims are retirement, censure, and suspension or removal from office.