[This article now cross-published by Salon...]
Over the weekend, the news broke that U.S. District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller (Middle District of Alabama), who was arrested almost one year ago after allegedly beating his wife bloody in an Atlanta hotel room, has finally submitted his resignation from the federal bench to President Obama. Previously, through his attorneys, Fuller had strenuously refused to step down, declared his innocence, and insisted that a 5-judge Special Committee convened by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to investigate the matter would eventually clear him of wrongdoing.
It appears instead that the panel has found "grounds for impeachment" instead. That finding has been "unanimously adopted" by the Circuit's full Judicial Council which is sending its report and recommendations to the U.S. Judicial Conference. That body, in turn, may then decide whether to recommend the U.S. Congress take up such rare proceedings. Without a federal judge voluntarily stepping down, impeachment by Congress is the only way to remove a sitting federal appointee to the bench.
Fuller, who would not otherwise be eligible to draw retirement pension for another three years, will continue to draw a salary from taxpayers for two more months --- just as he has for the last 10 months --- despite having had his caseload reassigned to other judges in the immediate aftermath of his arrest a the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Atlanta in early August of 2014.
"Justice was not served here," said Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) in a statement over the weekend in response to the news of Fuller's resignation. Alabama's only Democratic Congressmember had long been calling for impeachment proceedings.
"Fuller failed to uphold our most fundamental values," she said. "Perhaps the only consolation is that he has chosen to spare his family and our nation of the expense of a drawn out impeachment process." The rest of the state's Congressional contingent, including its two Republican U.S. Senators who had originally supported Fuller's appointment in 2002, had also called for him to step down. Many offered statements approving of his decision over the weekend to finally step down.
Despite the tendered resignation, however, impeachment proceedings could still legally be carried out in the U.S. House, though the likelihood of that may now somewhat diminished.
We have covered Fuller, who was appointed to his lifetime position on the court in 2002 by George W. Bush, in great detail since news of his arrest became public. (See links to many of our noteworthy articles in the saga at the bottom of this piece.) Prior to his arrest, Fuller was perhaps best known for having sentenced Alabama's former Gov. Don Siegelman (D) to some seven years in federal prison on questionable "bribery" related charges. That, despite the Judge's own long-apparent conflicts of interest in the case. Before being named to the court, Fuller served as a political operative as the head of the Alabama GOP and his office, when he served as a state prosecutor, had been investigated and criticized for improprieties by the former Governor long before Fuller oversaw Siegelman's trial...
Following his arrest, Fuller was able to strike a plea deal for a pretrial diversion program with the state court in Georgia in order to have his criminal record entirely expunged after just 24 weeks of once-a-week domestic abuse counseling and a court-ordered drug and alcohol evaluation. He was offered the deal by the judge on the premise that the incident at the Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta --- when his wife called 911 in tears, asking for help and claiming that "he's beating on me!" --- was his first infraction. Records from his messy divorce in 2012, however, suggest that there were very similar incidents of physical abuse, as well as drug and alchohol abuse, involving his first wife and their children during the first marriage.
"We sent the wrong message to victims of domestic violence by allowing a federal judge to collect a paycheck --- without managing a caseload --- and ultimately having his record expunged," said Sewell over the weekend...
Judge Fuller's first wife, Lisa Boyd Fuller, had accused Judge Fuller of having an affair with his then court bailiff, Kelli Gregg who he would marry shortly after his divorce from Lisa was finalized. The records from those proceedings were sealed over her "strenous objections". During the incident at the Ritz-Carlton hotel last year, Kelli accused her husband of having an affair with a court clerk.
Though Fuller's two-sentence resignation letter delivered to the President stated that "It has been an honor and privilege to serve," it's likely that the timing of his decision was meant in hopes of avoiding the embarrassment of impeachment by Congress...