State supreme rules on suspension of Judges’ administrative powers

Judge Tammy Stokes
Judge Tammy Stokes

(SAVANNAH) The state’s highest court weighs in on a reported conflict between judges in Chatham County Recorder’s Court, restoring administrative authority to Chief Judge Tammy Stokes. Friday marked the first day chief recorder’s court judge Tammy Stokes resumed administrative duties for recorders court. September 8, 2016, Chatham County’s Superior Court judges stripped Stokes of those responsibilities, in part due to what it called a “war” between Judge Stokes and fellow judge Claire Williams. Charles “Bo” Bowen, the attorney representing Stokes, says the conflict in the recorder’s court is not a two-way street. ” To the extent that there’s any kind of, quote, unquote war, I can assure you it’s a one-sided affair. Judge Stokes, respects Judge Williams and the work she does and has always considers her a friend” Bowen said.

Bowen says he and Stokes are pleased with the quick action on his emergency petition to stay the action of the Superior Court Judges in Chatham County, adding that this started with a human resources complaint from two Savannah City employees, including Judge Williams, though Williams is an elected official. Stokes barred the public release of a city investigation into the complaint, until she completed her own investigation into that complaint. Bowen says as Chief Judge, Stokes is bound by law to issue a report because the complaint involves employees of the court Stokes oversees. Bowen says the city’s report is based on 4 hearsay statements, even though the investigator claims to have interviewed 47 people, and none of the interviews were recorded. “It is the single greatest hatchet job that I have ever seen in the history of this city.” said Bowen. The city’s 133 page report about recorder’s court alleges there are two factions in the operation, those who support Stokes and those who support Williams. That report triggered action from the superior court when stokes blocked it’s public release. “We felt like the action that Superior Court had undertaken with the writ of prohibition, there was just simply no legal authority for it whatsoever! It was unprecedented.” said Bowen.

The Supreme Court, in it’s ruling, also says there is no precedent for the action by the Superior Court, but the justices also say they are troubled by the reports about Chatham County’s recorder’s court. ” I think Judge Stokes would 100-percent agree. I think she is extremely troubled by the city’s report, so that’s why her report’s going to be so important. Right now, the city report is the only thing anyone’s has seen and you’re talking about a report based on four hearsay statements.” Bowen said, adding that the report his client is working on will be fair and based on facts and evidence. He says much of the evidence will be in the form of video from the courthouse security system. “I will tell you that it will be dressed fully & completely, I’m certain, in Judge Stokes final report.” said Bowen. He says Judge Stokes report will not be released to the public for ten days after it’s completion. That report expects to complete her this week. The supreme court’s restoration of Stokes administrative authority remains in effect until a full hearing before the justices, which is several months away.

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