Ken Hare In Depth: The Ray Rice of federal judiciary should resi - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

Ken Hare In Depth: The Ray Rice of federal judiciary should resign

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

Calls for federal Judge Mark Fuller to resign or to be impeached after being accused of domestic violence are increasing, but it remains to be seen if the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will rally around the Montgomery judge or instead show it takes domestic abuse seriously.

But at least one senior federal judge has gone on record that Fuller has no business handling federal cases after, as the judge put it, "beating the crap out of his wife in a fancy hotel room while reeking with booze."

Former Chief Circuit Judge Richard Kopf of Nebraska, who now holds senior status, is a rare breed among federal judges -- he actually speaks out on judicial issues as long as they are not part of cases before him. He even writes a regular blog on judicial matters.

Kopf recently targeted the Fuller situation in his online column, saying that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judicial Council should strip Fuller "of his ability to hear cases for as long as the law allows."

He also writes that the council "should also publicly reprimand him and formally request that he resign."

In other words, Kopf is recommending that the 11th Circuit Judicial Council throw the book at Fuller, since taking away his cases, issuing a reprimand and asking him to resign are about the only things the council can do.

The 11th Circuit cannot strip his pay -- he is continuing to be paid while undergoing counseling. Nor can the court remove him as a judge. That can be done only through the congressional impeachment process.

Kopf sees the impeachment process as a waste of time in Fuller's case, and he may be right. In the nation's history only 15 federal judges have been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives and only eight of them have been convicted by the Senate and removed from office. Three others resigned before being tried by the Senate.

But Kopf writes that the 11th Circuit should "neuter" Fuller for as long as possible.

"Given what happened in that hotel room, no one should trust his judgment in a federal trial courtroom. That courtroom is a hallowed place where trust in the one person wearing a black robe is absolutely indispensable," Kopf wrote.

Kopf is right in maintaining that Fuller has no business on the bench. Sadly, he probably also is right that it is unlikely that Congress will impeach and convict him so that he can be removed from his lifetime appointment.

But the women members of Alabama's congressional delegation are speaking out on the Fuller situation. U.S. Rep Martha Roby has said she is closely monitoring the court investigation of Fuller, with at least the implication that impeachment is not out of the question. A day later, Rep. Terri Sewell said that Fuller should resign, followed by U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby. Shelby and fellow Alabama U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions should be especially upset, since they recommended Fuller's appointment to a federal judgeship in 2002.

Last week I wrote a column contrasting how the National Football League and the courts are handling high profile cases involving domestic abuse allegations. The NFL should be embarrassed at how leniently  it handled domestic abuse cases until the video of pro footballer Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator focused attention on the league. But frankly, unless Fuller is censured and pushed to resign by the federal court system, the NFL is going to look good by comparison because it at least appears to be trying to respond to public criticism by adopting tougher rules.

Fuller should do the right thing -- publicly accept responsibility for his actions; apologize to his wife, his family, his co-workers and the public; and then resign.

If he doesn't, then we urge Roby and the state's other members of the U.S. House to lead an effort to have him impeached. Impeachment may be, as Judge Kopf suggests, a long shot. But if it is the only way to strip Fuller of his judicial robes, it is still worth pursuing.

ON THE WEB: Kopf's website is http://herculesandtheumpire.com/

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Victims of domestic abuse in the Montgomery area can get help. One Place Family Justice Center has a 24-hour crisis line at 800-650-6522. Family Sunshine Center offers counseling and shelter at 334-206-2100. If it's an emergency, call 9-1-1.

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 Ken Hare was a longtime Alabama newspaper editorial writer and editorial page editor who now writes a regular column for WSFA's web site. Email him at khare@wsfa.com

Copyright 2014 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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