Chief Superior Court Judge John D. Allen is stepping aside next week as chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, saying the state's judicial watchdog agency needs a fresh leader after a dizzying round of resignations among Georgia judges.
"I just strongly believe for the good of the commission we should rotate leadership," Allen said in an interview today. "We've had a real busy two years."
The Columbus judge will remain on the seven-member commission, where he is serving his second four-year term. He's also unopposed in his bid for re-election to the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, the six-county jurisdiction that includes Columbus.
The JQC is expected to select a new chairperson among its current members, Allen said, a select group of lawyers, judges and lay people. Allen's resignation, which was first reported today by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, comes as the JQC is fielding an unprecedented amount of complaints against Georgia's judiciary, and not just from disgruntled litigants. Allen said complaints increasingly are coming from judges who witness improprieties and blow the whistle on their peers.
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"Judge Allen leaves an indelible mark on the judiciary which he has served so honorably, said Jeff Davis, the commission's director. "Judge Allen has led the commission through a flurry of increased activity over the last few years, steadfastly ensuring that those who aspire to be judges respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust."
Two local judges, Douglas C. Pullen and Robert G. Johnston III, resigned amid judicial misconduct investigations in recent years, but Allen has always recused himself from inquiries involving his circuit.
"We don't like to measure success by the number of judges we've had to resign. It's not a success," Allen said. "I wish we'd been able to remediate and keep a lot of the judges, quite frankly."
While Allen is taking off one hat, he's also been selected to become the first black president of the 96-year-old Rotary Club of Columbus on July 11.
"This one is going to be busier than the JQC if you can imagine that," said Allen, who's been a Rotarian more than 12 years. "It’s just an opportunity to serve the city in another way. This is a service organization with a very good reputation for service, and the people who are in it are committed to service.”
The outgoing Rotary president, Jimmy Elder, who is pastor of First Baptist Church, said Georgia's second-oldest Rotary Club has always been progressive.
"The fact that John is stepping in as president is appropriate and consistent with the way this club has functioned since its inception," Elder said. "This club has always been forward thinking and has stayed with the curve."
Metro Editor Chuck Williams contributed reporting