A Grady County judge says he will testify at an ethics tribunal next month to defend himself against allegations that he repeatedly violated judicial ethics rules.
In a formal response to charges filed by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission in December, Grady County State Court Judge J. William Bass Sr. denied that he had broken any rules, insisting instead that he had "erred as to the scope of his discretionary powers."
The judge asked that the charges be dismissed. While acknowledging that he might display "an idiosyncratic style on occasion," Bass said he "finds offensive and false the allegations that he showed improper bias and prejudice against defendants or individuals in his court."
Bass also questioned the propriety of the commission's dual role investigating and adjudicating alleged ethics violations. He added that the JQC's chief investigator, Richard Hydewhom Governor Nathan Deal recently appointed to the commission should be barred from meeting with the commission during Bass' trial or participating in its deliberations over his fate.
In December, the JQC filed charges with the Supreme Court of Georgia accusing Bass, a Cairo attorney and past president of the Council of State Court Judges of Georgia, of allowing social relationships to influence his judicial conduct. The JQC also accused Bass of illegally fining criminal defendants to boost his salary, verbally attacking people in his courtroom and retaliating against county contractors and others who had supported his political opponent in 2010.
The JQC also said Bass improperly appointed his son, who is also the judge's law partner, to preside over state court whenever the senior Bass was not available; routinely escorted Hispanic defendants outside the courtroom in order to speak privately with them about their cases without either a court reporter or a prosecutor present; asked prosecutors to dismiss criminal cases because Bass knew members of the defendants' families; and threatened members of the Georgia State Patrol who took exception to some of his rulings.
On Monday, the JQC filed new charges against Bass, claiming he has held at least one bench trial when a defendant failed to appear in court without determining why the defendant was absent.
Bass' attorney, Christopher Townley, said the new charges were filed "without checking to hear his side of the story." But he noted that the JQC has dropped one earlier allegation, that Bass improperly exerted his judicial authority by asking the county sheriff to bar a bonding company from writing bonds because Bass allegedly believed the company owner was not supporting his re-election campaign.
Bass' formal answer was filed Jan. 15, before the JQC issued its new charges. In it, the judge challenged JQC claims that he committed any ethical breach when he wrote a letter to county officials last year asking that his annual salary as a part-time judge be raised from $40,000 to $60,000 because fines and fees he assessed generated more than $350,000 a year for the county.
The JQC said Bass improperly assessed fines and local fees in violation of state lawsa practice that deprived the state of revenues while channeling unauthorized revenues to the county.