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Habersham judge resigns following misconduct allegations
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The chief superior court judge for Habersham, Stephens and Rabun Counties announced his resignation this week amid allegations of improper conduct.

Ernest "Bucky" Woods, 54, served on the Mountain Judicial Circuit bench since 1992. He presided over Habersham County's drug court and had filled in on a judge recusal in Hall County in 2008.

Woods' resignation is effective Jan. 15, said Habersham County Commissioner Doug Vermilya. Commissioners received notice of the resignation on Wednesday.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission was looking into allegations that Woods used his position to influence the case of a 34-year-old woman, according to published reports.

The Clayton Tribune quoted extensive Internet communications between Woods and Tara Elizabeth Black that started on the social networking site Facebook in April.

Woods allegedly changed Black's bond on a theft by deception warrant to a signature bond when it was initially set by a magistrate judge at $5,000, according to the newspaper.

The Tribune also reported that Woods told Black he would discuss her case with District Attorney Brian Rickman.

Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker's office, said he understood the allegations had been brought to the attention of Rickman. So far Rickman has not asked for assistance from the attorney general's office, Willard said.

Woods was the chief judge of the two-judge circuit. James Cornwell is the circuit's other judge. Gov. Sonny Perdue will have to appoint a judge to serve out the final three years of Woods' unexpired term. Woods was re-elected unopposed to a four-year term in November 2008.

Woods presided over a hearing in a Hall County death penalty case in November 2008. Lawyers for Alan Dickie argued that Hall County Judge Jason Deal should be recused from the case. Woods denied the motion. Dickie later pleaded guilty to murder, making the motion moot.

Efforts to reach Woods, Cornwell, Rickman, officials with the Judicial Qualifications Commission and the administrator of the judicial district that includes the Mountain Circuit were not immediately successful Thursday.


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