Rucker Smith, a Superior Court judge in southwest Georgia, has banished men from Sumter County for domestic violence. This week he was charged with battery over a fight with his former girlfriend last summer.
Smith, 52, the chief Superior Court judge for the six-county Southwestern Judicial Circuit, was formally charged Wednesday with one count of battery and two counts of simple battery, all misdemeanors.
It is alleged that he pushed the woman to the ground and grabbed her throat at her home outside Americus, causing visible injuries.
The criminal accusation was filed in Sumter County State Court by Cobb County Solicitor Barry Morgan, who was assigned the case after local prosecutors recused themselves.
Smith was arrested July 31 after Rachael Oliver called 911 and told authorities that Smith had knocked her down and thrown her off a porch, according to a police report obtained by the Americus Times-Recorder.
The woman told police the two had been drinking and got into an argument. She said Smith knocked her down and dragged her before she broke away and ran outside. "He got off the porch and grabbed her around the throat and choked her," the report said.
Mark D. Brimberry, Smith's attorney, said his client "vehemently denies being the aggressor in any shape, form or fashion." Brimberry said the notoriety in the small, tight-knit community "is embarrassing because it's not consistent with who this gentleman is."
Smith told police the two argued and "things got out of hand." He said he did not hit her. Oliver could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Smith, a judge since 1993, is a member of the State Bar of Georgia's influential board of governors, which sets policies and rules that govern the state's lawyers.
John Cole Vodicka, who runs the Americus-based Prison and Jail Project, a watchdog organization, said he had twice filed complaints with the state Judicial Qualifications Commission about Smith, once after the judge told a 17-year-old robbery suspect, "You have no business living on the face of the Earth." The complaints were unsuccessful. He said Smith's sitting in judgment of domestic battery cases "seems like an obvious conflict."
In 2002, Smith told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he had banished domestic violence offenders from their home county. Vodicka said Smith did that again the week after his arrest.
Cheryl Fisher Custer, executive director of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, said the commission had opened an investigation but could not speculate as to what might happen.
The state's Code of Judicial Conduct says, "Judges should respect and comply with the law and should conduct themselves at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary."
In 2003, Gwinnett State Court Judge David Fuller was suspended, with pay, after a TV station filmed him drinking in an Atlanta tavern during work hours and then driving. He pleaded no contest in Atlanta to a misdemeanor DUI charge and later resigned.