Henry County judge arrested on battery charge after encounter with lawyer

Chief Judge Brian J. Amero denies allegations
Chief Judge Brian J. Amero of the Henry County Superior Court was arrested Dec. 1, 2023, on a misdemeanor count of simple battery. He denies snatching a phone from an attorney's hand.

Credit: Henry County Superior Court

Credit: Henry County Superior Court

Chief Judge Brian J. Amero of the Henry County Superior Court was arrested Dec. 1, 2023, on a misdemeanor count of simple battery. He denies snatching a phone from an attorney's hand.

Henry County Superior Court Chief Judge Brian J. Amero has been arrested on a misdemeanor charge of simple battery, accused of aggressively snatching a phone out of a criminal defense attorney’s hand.

Amero, 57, turned himself in on Friday when alerted that a warrant for his arrest had been issued, Amero’s attorney, S. Lester Tate III, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tate said Amero denies the allegations and was released on a $500 bond.

Amero, a judge on the Henry County Superior Court since 2007, filed a request Monday to quash his arrest warrant, which was issued on Dec. 1 by Henry County Magistrate Judge W. Donald Patten Jr. Amero cited a commonly followed rule in Georgia that no judge should preside over a matter involving another judge from the same judicial circuit.

Tate said it was improper for Patten to issue the warrant, and that a judge from outside the Flint Judicial Circuit should be appointed to oversee the matter. Amero has also asked for a court hearing to precede any attempt by McDonough police to obtain a new warrant.

The alleged incident occurred on June 7 inside Amero’s chambers, case records show.

Attorney Suesan A. Miller said Amero was angry about problems with records from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services in a criminal case involving one of her clients.

Miller is a founding partner of the McDonough criminal defense law firm Miller North & Brill PC. She alleged that Amero snatched her phone from her hand when she told him she had been speaking with an attorney from the state agency.

Attorney Suesan A. Miller claims Chief Judge Brian J. Amero of the Henry County Superior Court aggressively snatched her phone out of her hand in June.

Credit: Miller North & Brill

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Credit: Miller North & Brill

“His actions were physically aggressive and corresponded with his visible anger,” Miller said in an affidavit. “At that point I was extremely concerned that he would take his anger out on my client, notwithstanding my own personal humiliation and shock.”

An assistant district attorney witnessed the interaction between Miller and Amero, records show.

The warrant states that Amero intentionally made physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature by snatching Miller’s cellphone from her hand in a forceful and aggressive manner. It says Amero approached Miller “in an aggressive and threatening demeanor.”

“The victim stated that the accused became irate,” the warrant states. “This act was described as aggressive and insulting with unwanted physical contact.”

Miller said she was interviewed by a McDonough police officer on Nov. 29. The following day, her firm sought to recuse Amero from a case involving one of its clients.

Amero voluntarily recused himself from the case after denying the firm’s request as untimely.

The Georgia Judicial Qualifications Commission, which deals with complaints against state judges, is investigating, Tate said. He said Amero told the state agency Miller’s accusations are false.

“If you felt that a crime had been committed against you in the first week of June, why wait until you’re on a trial calendar in front of the judge with eight cases subject to call?” Tate said. “I don’t know what else it would be other than an attempt to stall or delay.”

The judge remains on the bench. Miller’s firm declined to comment on the matter.

In her Nov. 30 affidavit, Miller claimed Amero was “unduly hostile” and “visibly angry with me” during a hearing in a criminal case on June 5, two days before the alleged incident in his chambers.

Miller said she also appeared before Amero on June 6, when a client was due to plead guilty. She said Amero appeared to blame her for the fact that records from the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services had not been produced in the case, though the state agency’s lawyer had explained there was difficulty in obtaining the records.

After the alleged June 7 incident, Miller was distraught and “incredibly disappointed in my ability to practice law,” she said. She claimed Amero also appeared to be angry with her during a subsequent hearing, when he seemed to blame her for the state’s failure to timely provide case-related documents.

“Since that date, I have requested and insisted that my law partners appear on my cases in front of Judge Amero, because I am concerned that whatever issue he appears to have with me personally will impact his rulings regarding my clients,” Miller said.

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