After 26 years, Augusta judge is stepping down as he comes under investigation

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 12:04 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Chief Judge Carl Brown is stepping down from his role in the Augusta Judicial Circuit. He sent his resignation to Gov. Brian Kemp while an investigation of misconduct was ongoing.

With the judicial circuit splitting and a lawsuit pending over the split, what’s next is not cut-and-dry.

This is Senate Bill 9.

What Kemp signed into law to move Columbia County out of the Augusta Judicial Circuit. It’s nine pages.

This is the lawsuit against the split. It’s 124 pages.

And we found out all of this could not only determine what the judicial circuit looks like, but also who takes over for Brown.

After 26 years, Brown is stepping down. It comes as he is under investigation for allegedly hiring people based on nepotism, influencing appointments for jobs and inserting himself in plea negotiations he wasn’t supposed to be a part of. Some say it’s a resignation; others say it’s a retirement.

A consent agreement signed by Brown states that the exit is part of a deal to resolve the investigation.

In a statement to News 12, Brown says, “I’m at a season where I need to because of some medical challenges to focus on myself and my family. After 26 years, it’s a good point to do that. ... My focus is on getting well and family.”

So who takes his spot?

Assuming the circuit does split, Judge Daniel Craig will become chief judge of the Richmond County/Burke County Circuit. And Judge James Blanchard would become the chief judge of the Columbia County Circuit.

If the lawsuit is successful and the judicial circuit doesn’t split, Blanchard will be chief judge of the three-county circuit out of seniority. But in both scenarios, there’s now an open spot for a new judge.

“Those who are interested in the judgeship will then apply to the governor for consideration,” said Vic Hawk, an attorney with Hawk Law Group.

And as for Brown’s cases?

“The judges would meet as a group and decide where the cases would be most appropriate to be placed,” said Hawk. “Say, for example, if the first judge has 200 cases, and the second judge has 150 well then you would look to put more of the cases with the second judge.”

But things could get dicey as the pending lawsuit could postpone or reverse the split of the judicial circuit. And it may be years before we get it resolved.

Brown will be in office until June 30, just a day before Columbia County is meant to have its first day as it’s own circuit.

According to the Georgia Supreme court order, Brown agreed not to do any work in the juvenile and magistrate courts in the time leading up to him stepping down. But after he resigns, he is able to work as a senior judge working across the state of Georgia as a fill-in, kind of like a substitute teacher.

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