Judge Brenda Weaver and other JQC Members receive Award for opinion on open courtrooms:Appalachian Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda S. Weaver and other members of the Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission (“JQC”) attended an awards banquet on June 26th in Atlanta and accepted the Charles L. Weltner Freedom of Information Award, sponsored by the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. The award was given to the JQC members and its Director primarily in recognition for JQC Advisory Opinion 239 regarding the importance of courtrooms that are open to the public. This is the first time that the award has been given to an agency or group, rather than an individual.
Troubled by judges who were barring members of the public from courtrooms across the state, the JQC, which is a seven-member agency in charge of disciplining judges, issued an opinion last year declaring that, except in rare circumstances, public access to Georgia courtrooms must be “unfettered and unobstructed.” The four-page opinion placed Georgia’s judges on notice that if they did not adhere to open courtroom principles long affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court, they would likely run afoul of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct and would be subject to disciplinary action by the commission. Courtroom proceedings are open to all members of the public except for those hearings in which the public is prohibited by law, such as many Juvenile proceedings or adoption proceedings.
In presenting the award, Welter’s daughter, Betsy Welter, called the JQC opinion “a body slam to closed courtrooms,” adding that it will insure “that our judges will put truth and fairness ahead of politics and expediency.”
The JQC honorees included current JQC chairman Robert D. Ingram, a Marietta attorney, and vice-chairman S. Lester Tate III, a Cartersville attorney, both of whom are former presidents of the State Bar of Georgia. They also included JQC members Linda Evans, an Atlanta civic leader and a lawyer; James B. Franklin, a Statesboro attorney; Fulton County State Court Judge Patsy Y. Porter, and Appalachian Judicial Circuit Chief Superior Court Judge Brenda S. Weaver. The honorees also included the JQC’s former chairman, Chattahoochee Circuit Superior Court Senior Judge John Allen; Brunswick lawyer James Durham, another former state bar president; JQC Director Jeffrey R. Davis; chief investigator and former JQC member Richard L. Hyde; and executive assistant Tara R. Moon.
Judge Weaver was appointed to serve on the JQC by the Georgia Supreme Court and has served on the JQC since 2013. She feels that the JQC should include members from both rural and metropolitan judicial circuits, and she was honored when appointed to this commission.
Press Release received by the Appalachian Judicial Circuit.