But this was not a fair reading of the appeals court’s disclosure, LaGrua said. “There is nothing in the record to suggest that Judge Baxter did anything other than encourage the Court of Appeals to move quickly with whatever ruling it was going to make.”
The APS defendants also said Baxter should be removed because he improperly defended himself in interviews with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Daily Report, a legal publication.
Baxter told the publications he called the appeals court because hundreds of prospective jurors were about to be summoned for the APS trial and he wanted to know how long the court would take to decide Cotman’s appeal. He also told the Daily Report that he believed Cotman’s lawyer was engaging in “game playing to delay the case.”
But LaGrua said she believed Baxter’s statements demonstrated neither bias nor prejudice and would not prevent him from being impartial moving forward.
LaGrua said she did not take her task lightly, noting that judicial integrity was a state interest of the highest order. At the same time, she said, “allowing unnecessary, unjustified recusals (of judges) to occur can be just as damaging to the integrity of the judiciary.”