The Georgia professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has made a formal complaint to the Judicial Qualifications Commission against a judge who had a journalist jailed over an Open Records Request.
Brenda Weaver, Chief Superior Court Judge of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit, had Fannin Focus publisher Mark Thomason and his attorney arrested after he filed a request for copies of checks that had been cashed by a government agency. Weaver accused Thomason of identity fraud, attempted identity fraud and making a false statement. All of these charges stemmed from his Open Records Request, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Because Weaver is chair of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, SPJ Georgia has requested she recuse herself from all matters involving our complaint. We are unable to publicly share the complaint, because the JQC’s rules require that all complaints be kept confidential until they’ve been resolved. We can say that we feel there have been several potential violations of the state’s Code of Judicial Conduct. We hope JQC will launch an investigation immediately.
In addition, we have also been in touch with the state Attorney General’s Office and have requested the assistance of the AG’s Open Government Mediation Program in this matter. SPJ Georgia has also signed onto a joint statement from the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, the Atlanta Press Club and the Georgia Press Association calling for the dismissal of all charges against Thomason.
SPJ Georgia has pledged its full support of Thomason and is actively working to provide him with the resources he needs to fight this abuse of power by Judge Weaver. We will continue to watch this case closely and will continue to advocate on behalf of all journalists in Georgia.