Judge faces ethics charges for relationship with court interpreter

Meng Lim (photo credit: Haralsoncountyga.gov)

Credit: Rome News-Tribune

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Meng Lim (photo credit: Haralsoncountyga.gov)

Credit: Rome News-Tribune

A west Georgia judge who was cleared last year of domestic violence is now facing judicial ethics charges for having an improper sexual relationship with a court interpreter.

Chief Superior Court Judge Meng Lim is also charged with giving preferential treatment to a Drug Court participant and failing to disclose his personal and business relationships with that man. The ethics charges were brought by the state Judicial Qualifications Commission in a filing last week before the Georgia Supreme Court.

The 35-page complaint also alleges that Lim, when he appeared before the JQC’s investigative panel in March, gave false and misleading comments when asked about his relationships with the interpreter and the Drug Court participant who once worked at Lim’s restaurant.

Neither Lim nor his lawyer, Dennis Cathey, could be reached for comment.

Lim, who was born in Cambodia, is the former county attorney for Haralson County and was elected to serve as a Superior Court judge in 2014. He presides over the Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit, which consists of Haralson and Polk counties.

Lim was arrested for domestic violence against his wife in July 2020. Prosecutors brought felony charges against Lim before a Haralson grand jury, but the grand jurors declined to hand up an indictment against the judge. At the time, Bob Rubin, Lim’s defense lawyer, contended Lim’s wife made a false allegation.

According to the complaint filed by the judicial watchdog agency, its investigation of the domestic violence case led it to uncover other alleged transgressions. One involved Lim’s romantic relationship with a Spanish-speaking woman who worked in the Polk County clerk’s office and was often used as a courtroom interpreter.

In 2016, Lim, who was married at the time, began seeing the woman, sometimes taking her to his home during workdays, the complaint states. After Lim filed for divorce in July 2016, the woman moved in with him. During this time, the woman continued to occasionally serve as an interpreter in Lim’s courtroom, the complaint states.

When asked if the woman moved in with him, Lim told the commission’s investigative panel that he remembered “she came to my house one weekend.” When asked about the appropriateness of his relationship with the woman, Lim answered, “She does not come in front of me for anything,” the complaint states.

The other alleged violations involve Lim’s oversight of Darren Hill, a family friend who worked for Lim and was a participant in the Tallapoosa Circuit’s Drug Court program. Lim failed to disclose his relationship with Hill, and on one occasion the judge persuaded court officials to let Hill skip mandated counseling sessions so he could finish work at the judge’s restaurant, the complaint states.

On another occasion, when Hill had a positive drug screen, Lim initiated a meeting with Hill and court officials in his chambers instead of immediately having Hill taken into custody, as was protocol, the complaint states.