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Enotah judge resigns amid ethics investigation
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A Northeast Georgia judge will resign Friday amid an ethics investigation into whether she tried to improperly influence the case of a Gainesville man convicted of drug charges.

Gov. Nathan Deal accepted on Tuesday the resignation of Enotah Circuit Superior Court Judge Lynn Akeley-Alderman, who announced she will leave the bench after the state’s Judicial Qualifications Commission began an investigation over judicial conduct.

According to a report from the commission, it was investigating allegations that the judge “attempted to lend the prestige of her judicial office to promote the interests of a criminal defendant” to influence another judge’s handling of the case of Charles Steven Stringer.

Alderman’s resignation announcement makes her the second judge from the Enotah Judicial Circuit, which serves Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties, to resign this month.

Judge David Barrett also resigned effective March 1 after reports surfaced that he drew a pistol in open court to make a rhetorical point in February.

The investigation into Alderman stemmed from accusations of visiting a Forsyth County judge in his chambers to tell him that Stringer was doing well in the community in 2011.

In 2006, Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Bagley sentenced Stringer to 12 years in prison after a Forsyth jury found him guilty of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Stringer also pleaded guilty in Lumpkin County to possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine and was sentenced to serve three years in prison.

He was  released from prison in 2008 because the Forsyth prison sentence had not been recorded at the state level. He was later arrested and brought back to Bagley’s courtroom to determine if he had to complete the original sentence.

While he was deliberating in 2011, Bagley reported that Alderman had met with him privately on Stringer’s behalf.
Alderman, who was not the judge who handled Stringer’s case in Lumpkin, provided Bagley with the man’s sentences from both counties.

Bagley said Alderman told him Stringer served the Lumpkin County sentence, but not the one Bagley had issued.
“She also told me that Mr. Stringer was doing well in his community,” Bagley said in 2011, adding that he couldn’t remember the details but that Alderman spoke favorably of Stringer.

Bagley would eventually rule that Stringer had to complete his sentence.

Forsyth County District Attorney Penny Penn reported at the time that she found Alderman’s actions “appalling” and said that the appropriate venue for resolution would have been in the courtroom.

“Anybody can come in there and speak on Stringer’s behalf. That’s the way it works,” Penn said. “As a judge, she certainly knows that.”

Alderman was not the only high level official lobbying for leniency on Stringer.

State Sens. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, also reportedly visited Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens’ office on Stringer’s behalf.

Alderman’s departure coupled with Barrett’s leaves two of three judge positions vacant in the Enotah Circuit.

Senior judges, who have retired from the bench but hear cases when they are needed to fill in, have been taking cases since Barrett’s departure. They will continue to do so until the governor appoints new judges, said Ninth District Court Administrator Steven M. Ferrell.

“It’s a sad situation,” Ferrell said of the two resignations. “It’s a change and a transition, but we’re very fortunate to have so many capable judges in the community who are willing to help us out.”

In her resignation, Alderman indicated she had considered stepping off the bench earlier, but her “final decision was delayed” by the resignation of Barrett.

When the judge sent a letter of resignation to Deal, she urged the governor “to quickly appoint two well-qualified individuals to fill the two vacancies on the Superior Court bench in the Enotah Judicial Circuit.”

Ferrell said he expects the appointments to come in a timely manner.

“With Gov. Deal involved I know we are going to get a great appointment,” he said.

The timing of the resignation came before the Judicial Qualifications Commission voted on holding a formal hearing into allegations against the judge.

As part of her resignation, Alderman cannot seek a judgeship again, according to a consent order she signed for the commission.

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