Despite every intention of earning a law degree to zealously advocate for others, I never imagined that after a four-year stint of legal education, my first pursuit of justice upon graduating would result from a devaluing experience of humiliation and disrespect by the very judicial system I was seeking to one day become a part of. Irony at its best, and perhaps disappointment at its worse, it is in the decree of doing what’s right that now compels me to request that the judicial standard of behavior be upheld by sharing my experience with Judge Alexandra Manning of Fulton County Superior Court, in hopes that the likelihood of others experiencing similar flaws in the system, might be diminished.
With that said, it is also of the utmost importance to emphasize that I am not insinuating that this individual account of judicial misconduct is indicative or representative of all Fulton County Superior Court Judges, because to do so would be unfair and completely inaccurate. However, this is exactly why it is even more pressing to address this instance of judicial misconduct to secure and preserve the integrity of all other Fulton County Superior Court Judges and maintain public confidence in the judicial system at large.
As any infrequent visitor can attest, the experience of a court hearing can be intimidating. The formality, tone, and sense that matters resulting are of great magnitude and importance can give pause to even the most hardened of hearts upon the commencement of proceedings. And although, it is rather typical for the outcomes of such proceedings to be challenged on both their merit and final result, neither underline the basis of the experience and issue at hand. Although, it is difficult to believe that based on the judicial manner in which my hearing was conducted that the outcome could have met the expected standards of fairness and impartiality intended by the courts, the greater issue and flaw in the process of my hearing was the inappropriate judicial conduct exhibited throughout the hearing itself that fell greatly beneath the required standard of the court — and which must now be addressed.
In what should have been a routine hearing of facts, allegations, and issues in dispute, turned out to be an exhaustive and unexpected series of put-downs, condescending actions, inappropriate statements, and behavior. From recurrent interruptions and not being given an adequate opportunity to speak or address questions at times, to enduring condescending actions, such as the judge clapping her hands and asking me if I was seeing what she was doing (to highlight her knowingly facetious actions), then having the judge question my law school and internship experience, only to lead up to the ultimate question of my career choice and whether or not I intended to become a litigator. It was apparent that the standard of conduct exhibited by this judge was depleting and gracefully sinking by the minute.
When I replied, “No ma’am,” her response was, “GOOD” — as though I lacked the mental capacity or functional capability to do so. I remind you that all this behavior was taking place in front of other individuals in the hearing.
To say the least, this sequence of undeserved and irrelevant questioning only heightened at the conclusion of the hearing when in the midst of dismissing and concluding the process, the Judge asked if my fiancé was pregnant. I was floored. I began to wonder what possibly empowered the judge to feel so comfortable to ask such an inappropriate question and would she have repeated such bold actions if a different individual sat in my place and for all purposes, looked differently than I did? I couldn’t help but wonder, “What emboldened her to think asking such a question was okay?” It wasn’t.
Nonetheless, the words that rang the loudest were spoken by the judge after taunting and making light of my legislative experience. And although unfortunate and meant perhaps without the best of intention, it was her very words that resonated as an immediate call to action. The judge instructed me as follows:
“And the things that you don’t like that happens and stuff like that. If you’re over there with all the big boys that think they’re smarter than the rest of us under the Gold Dome [The State Capitol] – Do something about it.”
Such baiting rarely deserves a proficient response. However, it is in the spirit of now answering that very call to action that I transparently share this account to not only “do something about it,” but also request that the Judicial Qualifications Commission for the State of Georgia investigate and take action to adequately address the judicial misconduct exemplified in the experience of this courtroom hearing.
Measures must be set in place to prevent such bias and inappropriate behavior from finding refuge in the Georgia Judicial System. For if I was treated in such a disrespectful, condescending and inappropriate manner by a judge that was fully aware of the fact that I at least had some knowledge of the law and legal profession, I can only imagine how many more individuals without such understandings are at greater risk of being even further mistreated. — Taos Wynn