The chief prosecutor for the North Georgia circuit where a Superior Court judge suddenly resigned last week said he has no indication a crime was committed.
Habersham County District Attorney Brian Rickman said Wednesday he was not inclined to ask for assistance from the Georgia Attorney General’s Office in the case of Chief Judge E.H. "Bucky" Woods, who announced his resignation effective Jan. 15 in the wake of damaging reports of alleged misconduct.
Woods, 54, reportedly communicated on the Internet social networking site Facebook with 36-year-old Tara Elizabeth Black about her pending theft by deception case. Black also contacted Woods regarding a friend who was sanctioned in the Habersham County drug court Woods oversaw.
The drug court case prompted another criminal defendant’s family to bring the Facebook communications to the attention of the district attorney’s office over concerns of bias, Rickman said.
Black’s case, which involved a civil debt, was eventually dismissed by the district attorney’s office independently of any involvement by the judge, Rickman said.
Woods did ask Rickman about the case once, he said. The judge asked the prosecutor, "what would normally happen in a case like that?" according to Rickman.
"I haven’t seen anything that would amount to anything criminal," Rickman said.
The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission is looking into the case. The JQC does not make its
investigations public unless formal charges are filed, but Rickman said his office received inquiries from the JQC after the allegations of judicial misconduct were first reported.
The commission’s executive director and chairman did not return phone messages seeking comment Wednesday. Woods was also unavailable for comment.
Senior Judge Robert Struble, who was chief judge for the circuit until taking senior status in 1999, will step in to fill Woods’ seat on the bench until Gov. Sonny Perdue can appoint a replacement.
Steve Ferrell, the administrator for the Ninth Judicial Administrative District that includes the Mountain Circuit, hopes the transition of case duties will be smooth.
Ferrell said Woods’ case management "was always above reproach," and the judge is "doing everything he can to make sure he’s tying up loose ends."
Perdue does not have a timetable for making an appointment to fill the vacancy, said spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
"The Judicial Nominating Commission will have to go through the nominating and interview process, then the governor will interview candidates," Schrimpf said. "The process does take time, but produces good results."
The nominating commission just advertised for another Superior Court judgeship in North Georgia left vacant after a judge resigned amid allegations.
Pickens County Judge Harry Doss resigned from the Appalachian Judicial Circuit in November. The JQC has charged Doss with 12 specific instances of judicial misconduct.