Judge Reuben Green And The Nasty Courtroom Camera
Mar. 16, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Either Judge Reuben Green knew what he was doing and didn’t care as he violated Georgia’s Code of Judicial Conduct or he simply wasn’t thinking about the camera trained on his discussions with prosecutors about cases absent defense counsel. Those appear to be the prevailing attitudes about this Cobb County, Georgia jurist.
A Cobb County surveillance video has some defense attorneys questioning whether their client can get a fair trial in one judge’s courtroom.
The video, obtained through an open records request, appears to show Judge Reuben Green and two assistant district attorneys talking about at least four cases without the defendant or their attorneys’ present.
This is referred to as an “ex parte communication,” and judges in Georgia don’t get to have them. Judges are supposed to refrain from them, because an ex parte communication makes people question whether a judge is fair and impartial. When those discussions are with prosecutors about trial strategy and exchanging opinions on jurors, then you shouldn’t be going there at all. Despite this, Judge Green rushed in where angels fear to tread.
“They were actually talking about some of the facts of the case. They were talking trial strategy,” said Attorney Ashleigh Merchant who has already filed for a new trial and for Judge Green to remove himself from the case.
In the video, you hear a voice that appears to be Judge Green discuss [a] case. At one point, he says, “Well hopefully this jury does the right thing. Had some unusual cases lately. Unusual juries.”
We have yet to find a definition of what constitutes an “unusual case” or an “unusual jury” in Judge Green’s courtroom. One wonders if an “unusual” circumstance might be where a jury finds someone “not guilty,” or a case might be one where a Defendant walks, given that Judge Green was a prosecutor before taking the bench. One thing that can’t be excused is prosecutors playing games to see what kind of gambit they’ll try on a person’s life, and Judge Green didn’t stop that.
In one part of the video, the prosecutors play the game rock, paper, scissors several times to decide who will handle a potential plea deal.
This was allowed in Judge Green’s court. There’s no way an outsider could ever find anything, other than “rampant condemnation” of the practice, “fair and impartial”. The District Attorney’s office has already punished those on tape by having a stern conversation about what’s appropriate to discuss in front of a judge, something that anyone who’s got the power to advocate that citizens get life plus cancer should already know before they’re hired.
District Attorney Vic Reynolds…called his entire staff together when he learned of the motion being filed, to discuss proper conduct with judges.
While Reynolds could not discuss the details of the conversation on the tape, he did defend an attorney’s ability to discuss administrative matters with a judge.
“Should they have done that? Absolutely not. I guarantee they will never do it again. I promise you. They’ve apologized to me,” said Reynolds.
Reynolds called them two excellent prosecutors having a “human moment”.
“Human moments,” “apologies” to the boss and “guarantees” don’t exactly restore the public’s trust, but who cares? It’s all about making sure the person in the jumpsuit gets the right sentence. “Seeking justice” is a concept that seems to be completely alien in Judge Green’s court given what the video shows. At this point, there’s only one word that applies to all cases coming before Judge Green: “recusal.”
In late February, a motion was filed asking Judge Green to recuse himself from a case and grant a new trial, due to statements made with prosecutors outside the presence of the defendant or his attorney.
Judges are to recuse themselves from a case when their impartiality gets called into question. Judge Green is no stranger to the concept of “recusal,” having been the subject of a Georgia Supreme Court decision on whether a judge can actually defend himself on a motion to recuse. Now he’s got bigger worries. Someone’s seized on this and threatened Green’s job security.
Attorney Nathan Wade said he’s not going to weigh in on whether the conversation was appropriate, but personally believes the public’s trust has been broken.
That’s why Wade said he shifted his campaign to run against Green. Originally he had intended to run for an open seat, created by a retiring Superior Court judge.
“It’s disturbing to hear and to know that a member of the judicial branch of government doesn’t really have confidence in our jury system.” (Emphasis added)
Someone doing something stupid and suffering consequences is nothing new. That’s a simplistic definition of every criminal law case. Someone exploiting another’s lapse in judgment for political gain is as old as the hills. This matter gets interesting when costs for security footage from Judge Green’s courtroom are drastically hiked because of a “return to policy.”
Merchant said she’s requested copies of the courts security videos in the past and they have always cost $5. But in response to her most recent request, the cost jumped closer to $250.
Cobb County said there’s been… just a return to policy. It said the video at the center of this controversy should have been screened prior to its release by law enforcement, but that didn’t happen.
In a written statement a county spokesperson said that “it’s necessary to review the proceedings to make sure nothing released would compromise the safety and security of our court and its participants.”
Apparently, Cobb County, Georgia places the “safety and security” of Judge Green and the prosecutors in his court over the other “participants.”