Gwinnett judge suspended after posts about Confederate monuments

Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Jim Hinkle

Gwinnett County Magistrate Judge Jim Hinkle

A Gwinnett County judge and longtime local politician has been suspended after making controversial Facebook posts about protests over Confederate memorials in Charlottesville, Virginia, and elsewhere.

Judge Jim Hinkle — a magistrate judge who served as mayor of the city of Grayson for more than two decades before retiring in 2013 — took to Facebook on Saturday to label the Charlottesville protesters “snowflakes” with “no concept of history.” On Tuesday morning, he followed that missive with another post, this one comparing “the nut cases tearing down monuments” to the so-called Islamic State.

A few hours after that post — which was not the first on Hinkle’s Facebook page that could be considered inflammatory — Gwinnett County Chief Magistrate Judge Kristina Hammer Blum told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she had suspended Hinkle.

Blum said she’d been unaware of the recent post and others until The AJC asked her for comment.

“After reviewing the Facebook posts you brought to my attention this morning, I have suspended Judge Hinkle effective immediately while I consider the appropriate final action,” Blum wrote in an email.

“As the Chief Magistrate Judge, I have made it clear to all of our Judges that the Judicial Canons, as well as our internal policies, require Judges to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, impartiality, and fairness of the judiciary. I consider any violation of those principles and policies to be a matter of utmost concern, and will certainly take any action necessary to enforce compliance and to maintain the integrity of this Court.”

Reached at his home early Tuesday afternoon, Hinkle said he didn’t "see anything controversial” about the posts.

“But you know, with the way things are going in the world today, I guess everything’s controversial,” he said, declining to comment further.

Hinkle’s Saturday afternoon post was written less than an hour before one of the white supremacists rallying in Charlottesville allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing one and injuring many more.

“In Charlottesville everyone is upset over Robert E. Lee statute (sic),” Hinkle’s post said, in part. “It looks like all of the snowflakes have no concept of history. It is what it is. Get over it and move on. Leave history alone - those who ignore history are deemed (sic) to repeat the mistake of the past.”

Gwinnett Magistrate Judge Jim Hinkle wrote a Facebook post Saturday about the white supremacist rally and counter protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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The proud Marine Corps veteran then appeared to express support for the Confederacy — or, at the very least, contempt for the North.

“In Richmond VA all of the Confederate monuments on Monument Ave. have people on horses whose asses face North. PERFECT!” he wrote.

The post was one of several on Hinkle’s page that could raise questions about his impartiality as a judge in one of the Southeast’s most diverse counties.

In March, Hinkle shared a link to a story with the headline “U.S. Marine Dad Makes School PAY After Pushing Muslim Propaganda On Little Girl.” In a January post, the judge declared himself “proud to be a deplorable infidel.”

In June 2016, he wrote the following post, a reference to Islam: “This is a tenet of what peaceful religion? ‘Slay the unbelievers wherever you find them.’”

Two months earlier, on the same day the United States Treasury announced that Underground Railroad leader Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, Hinkle wrote this: "Well, the U.S. Treasury has just announced the ugliest $20 bill, or any money ever."

Gabe Okoye, the chairman of Gwinnett County’s Democratic Party, called Tuesday for Hinkle to “apologize and resign.”

“When history of oppression and bigotry is celebrated, future generations may accept such as societal norms,” Okoye told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Given his biased views on this Charlottesville matter, how can ethnic minorities and religions trust him to render fair and equitable justice from the bench?”

Hinkle’s Facebook page appeared to be deactivated or set to private sometime around 11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, after The AJC first attempted to contact Hinkle and other Gwinnett County officials regarding his recent posts.

Charlotte Nash, the chairman of Gwinnett County’s Board of Commissioners, declined Tuesday to comment directly on the situation. She's spent the last eight months or so trying to maintain order in the wake of colleague Tommy Hunter’s own controversial social media posts.

In January, Hunter, the county's District 3 commissioner, called civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis a "racist pig" on Facebook. He's since been publicly reprimanded.

“Since the individual involved is an employee within the Magistrate Court and the Board of Commissioners has no authority over those employees, this is a matter for that Court to handle,” Nash wrote in an email. “I have confidence that the Chief Magistrate will review and address the situation.”

The NAACP wants several confederate statues and monuments taken down across Georgia.