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

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Calls for federal JudgeMark Fuller to resign or to be impeached after being accused of domestic violenceare increasing, but it remains to be seen if the 11th Circuit Court of Appealswill rally around the Montgomery judge or instead show it takes domestic abuseseriously.

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

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

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

He also writes that thecouncil "should also publicly reprimand him and formally request that heresign."

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

The 11th Circuit cannotstrip his pay -- he is continuing to be paid while undergoing counseling. Norcan the court remove him as a judge. That can be done only through thecongressional impeachment process.

Kopf sees theimpeachment 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 theSenate and removed from office. Three others resigned before being tried by theSenate.

But Kopf writes that the11th Circuit should "neuter" Fuller for as long as possible.

"Given whathappened in that hotel room, no one should trust his judgment in a federaltrial courtroom. That courtroom is a hallowed place where trust in the oneperson wearing a black robe is absolutely indispensable," Kopf wrote.

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

But the women members ofAlabama's congressional delegation are speaking out on the Fuller situation.U.S. Rep Martha Roby has said she is closely monitoring the court investigationof Fuller, with at least the implication that impeachment is not out of thequestion. 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. JeffSessions should be especially upset, since they recommended Fuller'sappointment to a federal judgeship in 2002.

Last week I wrote acolumn contrasting how the National Football League and the courts are handlinghigh profile cases involving domestic abuse allegations. The NFL should beembarrassed at how leniently  it handled domestic abuse cases until thevideo of pro footballer Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious in an elevatorfocused attention on the league. But frankly, unless Fuller is censured andpushed to resign by the federal court system, the NFL is going to look good bycomparison because it at least appears to be trying to respond to publiccriticism by adopting tougher rules.

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

If he doesn't, then weurge Roby and the state's other members of the U.S. House to lead an effort tohave 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 stillworth 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

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