Sumter County judge resigns from bench amid investigation

Yet another Georgia judge has resigned from the bench in the face of a judicial misconduct investigation.

Russ Barnes, who served as Sumter County State Court judge, notified Gov. Nathan Deal on Thursday of his decision.

In a court filing Friday, the state Judicial Qualifications Commission said it was investigating allegations that Barnes mismanaged or misappropriated funds that he held in a fiduciary capacity. The filing did not provide further specifics, except to say there were allegations that Barnes “brought his judicial office in disrepute and undermined confidence in the judiciary.”

Barnes, who is also a private attorney in Americus, is the seventh Georgia judge to resign or retire from the bench this year while being investigated on allegations of misconduct.

Earlier this month, Barnes was reported missing, leading Sumter County law enforcement officials, including some in a helicopter, to search for him. He was found in his car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and taken to a crisis center. On Friday, Barnes did not return a phone call or an email seeking comment.

Barnes penned his resignation letter to the governor on a legal pad.

“I have enjoyed my service in such capacity but must resign my position,” Barnes wrote. “Thank you for your consideration.”

Barnes also signed a consent order in which he agreed to never seek, request or accept judicial office again.

In recent years, a number of Georgia judges, including several high-profile chief judges, have resigned in the face of an ethics investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Just recently, the commission filed charges against Camden County Probate Judge Shirley Wise, accusing her of taking bribes and illegally pre-signing applications for marriage licenses. The seven-member Judicial Qualifications Commission has scheduled a Dec. 17 trial for Wise to determine whether she committed ethics violations.

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