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Habersham superior court judge resigns post
Reports allege misconduct
Ernest Woods - photo by Times file photo

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

Ernest H. “Bucky” Woods, 54, had served on the Mountain Judicial Circuit bench since 1992. He presided over Habersham County’s drug court and 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 earlier this week. Vermilya said commissioners were not given an explanation for the resignation.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission was looking into allegations that Woods used his position to influence the criminal 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 the allegations were 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 and was re-elected unopposed to a four-year term in November 2008. James Cornwell is the circuit’s other judge. Gov. Sonny Perdue will appoint a judge to serve out the final three years of Woods’ unexpired term. Woods presided as a visiting judge in a hearing for 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 on Thursday 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 successful.

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