Judge Weaver’s Black Robe Syndrome
August 8, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Attorneys occasionally whisper about a condition called “black robe syndrome” when discussing judges. It’s usually mumbled after losing a case in front of a judge and denotes a jurist that is mean, ill-tempered, and abuses their power. You’d be hard pressed to find a judge currently suffering from a textbook case of “black robe syndrome” worse than Appalachian Circuit Judge Brenda Weaver, whose fight with Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason uncovered a disturbing trail of favors, coaching prosecutors to gain an indictment, and potential abuse of her office to silence political opponents.
Fault Lines first discussed the dust-up between Judge Weaver and Mark Thomason last month, when Thomason and his attorney, Russell Stookey, were arrested and indicted on “identity fraud” and “attempted identity fraud” charges after Thomason filed an Open Records request for copies of canceled checks from a publicly-funded account maintained by Judge Weaver and her office.
The copies were requested because Thomason believed some of the checks were cashed illegally and used to pay attorney fees for court reporter Rhonda Stubblefield’s defamation suit against Thomason. The indictments came from Judge Weaver’s “good faith belief” that Thomason would use the information on the checks for his own personal gain. I said the following in regards to Judge Weaver’s assertions.
Run that statement through the patented Fault Lines’ “Bullshit-To-Honesty Translator” and you’ll find out the real reason Thomason and Stookey face felony charges comes from Stookey’s subpoena to the bank. According to the indictment, Stookey allegedly failed to provide Judge Weaver notice when subpoenaing Stearns Bank, the financial institution that managed the Court’s operational accounts. You have to notify the party whose bank records you’re subpoenaing, but does that warrant Judge Weaver injecting herself in a case with criminal charges against a journalist and his attorney?
The answer to that last question was no, and at the time this story was first posted, we had no idea just how much Judge Weaver injected herself in this case. Now, thanks to an open records request, we know Judge Weaver actually coached District Attorney Alison Sosebee on what charges to bring and how to present the indictment.
After Mark Thomason issued a subpoena to Pickens County, Georgia for checks related to Judge Weaver’s publicly funded account, Chairman Rob Jones forwarded the request to Judge Weaver. That same day, Judge Weaver forwarded the request to Sosebee and an investigator with the District Attorney’s office. Four days later, Weaver emailed Chairman Jones, sending copies to DA Sosebee, other law enforcement officials, and county officials stating any allegations checks were illegally cashed were “absolutely false.” A simple denial of wrongdoing wasn’t enough for Judge Weaver. Heads had to roll for questioning her integrity.
The next day, she sent emails to Sosebee’s personal account. Around 10 a.m., she told Sosebee that the key to the criminal case is Thomason’s statement in the records request that the checks had been cashed illegally. She also told Sosebee to question Fannin County Attorney Lynn Doss about giving copies of checks to Thomason — which Thomason then used to subpoena her operating account.
Weaver added: “Stookey needs to be questioned about how he got (a copy of) the check and his continued efforts to get more checks.”
Later that day, Weaver’s law clerk sent her an email with a state code section about the proper process for getting bank account information through a subpoena. The clerk told Weaver that the person issuing the subpoena needs to alert the owner of the bank account.
Keep the name Lynn Doss in mind, because we’re going to get to her later. What the emails reveal between Weaver, her law clerk, and Sosebee is known as an “ex-parte communication.” It’s about as big of a no-no as you can get when you’re dealing with judges and prosecutors. Just ask Judge Ruben Green, whose simple utterances about “unusual juries” landed him in hot water.
Specifically communicating with a District Attorney who used to work for you about the specific statute under which a party should be indicted, and then spelling out Weaver’s lack of notice prior to subpoenaing the checks as grounds for Thomason and Stookey’s arrest eliminates the possibility of Judge Weaver ever being considered “fair and impartial” for any defendant in her courtroom.*
Attorneys who aren’t political allies of Judge Weaver and Alison Sosebee aren’t going to get the greatest treatment either. Lynn Doss, mentioned earlier, is married to Harry Doss, who unsuccessfully ran for District Attorney against Alison Sosebee back in 2012. Sosebee had the backing of Judge Weaver, for whom she’d previously worked, so the deck was stacked against Harry Doss from the outset. That apparently hasn’t stopped Judge Weaver of concocting a conspiracy theory involving the Doss family and other unnamed parties, who somehow want to “get” her and her husband, George Weaver.**
After confirming one of the canceled checks Thomason obtained was provided to Lynn Doss in “March 2016” with County Clerk Rita Kirby, Judge Weaver drafted a blanket recusal order asking the Administrative Judge of the Ninth Circuit to appoint a judge outside the Circuit to hear any and all cases Lynn Doss had pending in the Appalachian Judicial Circuit and then sent it to Sosebee for review. Read some of the proposed Recusal Order language and see if you can spot the problems.
In an ongoing investigation, it was determined that Lynn Doss using her position as county attorney requested copies of quarterly office operating checks for the offices of Judge Weaver…Doss later admitted…that she gave copies of the checks to Russell Stookey, attorney for Mark Thomason. She did so without the permission or knowledge of her employer, to wit: Fannin County Government…Therefore, it appears that the above listed attorney performed her acts, along with others who are also now being investigated, based upon bias, malice, and ill will for the Judges.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Chairwoman of Georgia’s Judicial Qualifications Commission ostensibly violating Georgia Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.3, 2.4 and more. At this point, as more information that develops in this story, it’s getting easier to list the rules the head of Georgia’s judicial oversight board hasn’t broken in her attempts to silence Mark Thomason. Until someone can step in and correct the mess Judge Weaver and DA Sosebee created, one would do well to heed the advice of legal scholar Vicki Lawrence, often cited by Reba McIntyre. “Don’t trust your soul to no backwoods Southern DA, ‘cause the Judge of the town’s got dark stains on her hands.”***
*Russell Stookey denies this, claiming he left a voice mail letting Judge Weaver know about the subpoena.
**In addition to working for Judge Weaver, Alison Sosebee worked with George Weaver at his law firm before ascending to the District Attorney’s spot.
***Yes, those aren’t the actual lyrics. It’s called “creative license” for a reason.