Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford of the Griffin Judicial Circuit. (AJC File)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

State panel says Griffin judge should be removed from bench

A state judicial watchdog panel is recommending that Superior Court Judge Mack Crawford of the Griffin Judicial Circuit be removed from office for the alleged theft of court funds.

Crawford, a former state legislator who also once headed the state’s public defender system, has already been indicted for the alleged incident. Crawford, who has pleaded not guilty, presides over cases in Fayette, Spalding, Pike and Upson counties. Because of the indictment, Crawford is currently suspended from office.

The recommendation that Crawford be removed from office was made by a state Judicial Qualifications Commission hearing panel composed of Chief Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, Atlanta lawyer Jamala McFadden and Cobb County Police Chief Michael Register. Its recommendation now goes to the Georgia Supreme Court, which will make the ultimate decision on Crawford’s fate.

In 2002, while a private attorney, Crawford represented two clients who placed $15,675 into the Pike County court’s registry while their foreclosure case was pending. In 2009, a judge dismissed the case and ordered the funds be returned to Crawford’s clients.

The funds stayed in the registry until December 2017 when a clerk told Crawford she planned to send the money to the state as unclaimed property. But Crawford directed her to give him the funds, which he used to pay off debts he owed, according to court records.

In its decision, the hearing panel said “very little” about Crawford’s conduct in the matter demonstrated a commitment to respect and comply with the law.

“(T)he record makes plain that the money he took was not demonstrably his own and that he took what he did in a manner that did not comply with a judge’s order,” the decision said.

Crawford’s actions “reflect conscious, consistent decisions to act in a matter inconsistent with the norms of our judiciary,” the decision said. “Deliberate choices were made then that now have consequences.”

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.