Judge says Fulton judicial candidate disqualified over taxes

A state administrative law judge ruled Monday that Atlanta lawyer Clarence R. Johnson Jr. is disqualified to run for a Fulton County judgeship because of unpaid taxes.

Johnson is challenging Superior Court Judge Todd Markle, and the non-partisan race is to be decided July 31.

But Administrative Law Judge Michael Malihi upheld a challenge to Johnson's candidacy and ordered his name removed from the ballot.

Johnson's lawyer, Mawuli Mel Davis, said Johnson will appeal the ruling, if necessary. The candidate is first waiting to see what Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp decides to do, because Malihi's decision is not binding, Davis said.

"He is going to continue his campaign, full speed ahead," Davis said. "This is far from over."

Kemp is carefully reviewing the decision, a spokesman said.

Johnson's candidacy was challenged by Matt Metcalf of Roswell, who filed a complaint with the Secretary of State's Office. He said Johnson was ineligible to hold office because he owed more than $15,000 in state and federal taxes.

According to the Georgia Department of Revenue, Johnson owes $3,638 in taxes. The IRS says he owes $11,447 in taxes.

Johnson has acknowledged being delinquent on his taxes, but he has been making payments on his past-due federal taxes to the IRS and he will make his first payment to the state on July 28, Davis said.

The problem, however, is that Johnson failed to remedy the problems before he formally filed his notice of candidacy, Judge Malihi said in his decision. "Accordingly, he did not meet the qualification for office at the time he swore that he was eligible to hold office."

Johnson is a former attorney for Fulton County and the city of Atlanta. Last year, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Markle to fill the unexpired term of Michael Johnson, who resigned to run for Congress; at the time, Markle was Deal's executive counsel.

Staff writer Chris Joyner contributed to this article.