Alpharetta judge announces retirement while being investigated

Attorney Barry Zimmerman, who is retiring as chief Municipal Court judge in Alpharetta on July 1. (Photo: Zimmermanatlantalaw.com)

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Attorney Barry Zimmerman, who is retiring as chief Municipal Court judge in Alpharetta on July 1. (Photo: Zimmermanatlantalaw.com)

The chief judge of Alpharetta’s Municipal Court has agreed to retire to resolve an investigation against him for possible ethical lapses.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigative panel had launched the probe to determine whether Judge Barry Zimmerman violated the code of judicial conduct. The agency resolved the case when Zimmerman decided to step down from the bench, court records show.

The city appointed Zimmerman to the court in 2014 and reappointed him in January to serve another four-year term. On June 9, Zimmerman penned a letter to Mayor Jim Gilvin and members of the city council, saying he had decided to retire “for personal reasons.”

“It has been a great pleasure, and an honor, serving the citizens of Alpharetta,” Zimmerman wrote. He said he will retire July 1.

The next day, the JQC filed a consent agreement with the Georgia Supreme Court. It said Zimmerman may have been “improperly involved in several cases in his court ... in his capacity as an attorney.” It also said he may have taken judicial action on Municipal Court cases when he should have recused himself from them.

Also, again while serving as an attorney, Zimmerman may have improperly represented a party in a personal matter in another court even though that person regularly appeared before him in Municipal Court.

In light of Zimmerman’s decision to retire, the JQC’s investigative panel will not file formal ethics charges, said the agreement, signed by Zimmerman and JQC director Chuck Boring. The agreement also said Zimmerman agreed to not seek judicial office again.

“Judge Zimmerman has had a long and distinguished career both in private practice and as a part-time judge,” said attorney Lester Tate, who represented Zimmerman before the JQC. “While he felt strongly about the case, it was not worth continuing to fight it.”