Damn Coomer.
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You…didn’t know?

The timeline for redemption is a funny thing. The factors for forgiveness are manifold — egregiousness of violation, passage of time, moves made to right wrongs, what have you. A Michigan judge came under fire last month for moral high horsing the hiring of a clerk who did his best to repay his debt to society after shooting at a cop 30 years ago. This story is different though; a Georgia judge is being recommended to leave his post because of something he did not too long ago.

A judicial ethics panel is recommending removal of a suspended Georgia appeals judge for exploiting an elderly client before joining the bench and using campaign cash when he was a state legislator to pay for personal expenses, including a family trip to Hawaii.

In a Jan. 30 report and recommendation, a hearing panel of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission said Judge Christian A. Coomer of the Georgia Court of Appeals had used the client and the campaign funds as a “personal ATM,”

That is super grimy. This isn’t even one of those grey areas! Not using client and campaign funds as a personal ATM is so basic that even Arby’s School Of Meats and Law grads know better than that. The only person that wants this judge in an embezzlement case is Robert Vesco. Coomer thinks that since his… creative trip financing happened before he robed up and took the bench it shouldn’t be factored in. The ethics panel, understandably, thinks otherwise.

“That the bulk of [Coomer’s] improper conduct occurred before he began serving as a judge does not change the sanction equation: Removal from office is still necessary to safeguard the public’s perception of the judiciary,” the hearing panel said.

Part of Coomer’s response was to get some compelling character testimony on his behalf:

The panel noted that character evidence from Coomer’s superior officer when Coomer was in the U.S. Air Force’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. The superior officer saw Coomer as a smart, capable leader who excelled in everything he did. The superior officer also put Coomer among the top 1% of officers he has met.

Now, this is the part that made me laugh. The panel immediately pivoted to a Chidi moment.

They read Coomer’s stellar character as proof that he should have known that it was wrong to dip in the pockets of the elderly.

If that’s true, the hearing panel said, Coomer “knew exactly what he was doing when he convinced [the client] to loan his assetless and judgment-proof limited liability company hundreds of thousands of dollars on those unreasonable terms, when he drafted and executed those ethically impermissible and indefensible estate documents, … and when he used thousands of dollars held in public trust to fly his entire family over 4,000 miles away to the beaches of Hawaii for a private vacation at a time when he had already been appointed to be a judge on the [Georgia] Court of Appeals.”

Coomer’s “long-term pattern of violating attorney ethics rules and campaign finance laws to his own financial benefit, his lack of remorse, and his payment of restitution only after his wrongdoing came to light outweigh mitigating factors and demand removal from office,” the hearing panel said. The hearing panel found that ethics regulators had proven 29 counts but found for Coomer on seven other counts.

Yeah… I can get why folks wouldn’t want this guy with a gavel in his hand. Regardless of the ethics panel’s conclusion, the Georgia Supreme Court will ultimately decide the matter. We will keep you up to date on the highest court’s decision.

Appeals Judge Should Be Removed For Using Client And Campaign Account As A ‘Personal ATM,’ Ethics Panel Says [ABA Journal]

Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s.  He endured Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at cwilliams@abovethelaw.com and by tweet at @WritesForRent.